Research initiatives for Imperial-X: Guidance for applicants

 
 

Contacts

Imperial-X:

  • Peter Pietzuch, Co-director (Research)
  • Chris Tucci, Co-director (Education)
  • Guy Nason, Co-director (Engagement)
  • Eric Yeatman, Chair

Research Office:

Context

Imperial-X – “Human and Machine Learning”

Imperial-X aims to create a new co-located collaborative environment for research, education, and entrepreneurship across artificial intelligence, data science and digital technologies. It will serve as a blueprint for the university of the future that is unencumbered by institutional and thematic silos, seeks deep and impactful collaborations with industry and government, and delivers innovative cross-cutting teaching programmes about and using digital technologies. 

 The convergence of digital and information technologies offers the potential for new models of working together across staff, students, and industry partners. Imperial-X will combine research, teaching, and innovation activities, integrating staff and students across all faculties as well as researchers from industry, to build a new model of co-discovery and co-creation. Following the severe disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for universities to adapt and change has become clearer and more urgent. Imperial-X will develop new approaches to research, teaching and innovation that can then spread throughout and beyond Imperial. 

Imperial-X will be based on the White City Campus. It will benefit from a modern, vibrant co-located space, which is essential to deliver research, innovation, and education for a digital world. Imperial-X will not only be a physical space: it will build a strong digital presence, and a beyond state-of-the-art environment for virtual collaboration. It will include the latest facilities for interactive teaching and collaboration linking White City with South Kensington, other College campuses, and external partners.

Imperial-X will provide significant opportunities to attract new industry partners for research initiatives. A key aim will be not only to build new collaborations, but to co-locate and deeply embed industry in our research as well as education. Partners will be able to co-locate staff both within Imperial-X and in the broader White City campus.

Imperial-X is not intended to be a new administrative structure, e.g., a department or an institute, but a “campus” for a broad range of research initiatives and projects. Staff and students will remain members of “home” departments. The longer-term aim of Imperial-X is to create a research and education activity similar in scale to College’s larger academic departments, graduating 50 or more PhD students a year.

Imperial-X is supported as a College Academic Strategy initiative. Thus it has strong support from College leadership and will be one of the priorities for philanthropic funding.

More information about the vision, goals and governance.

Opportunity

Imperial-X's innovative model will facilitate research initiatives that aim to deliver transformational research over periods of 5–10 years. Research initiatives will bring together multi-disciplinary academic teams from across Imperial with companies and non-profit labs to solve problems that they cannot solve alone.

To establish research initiatives associated with Imperial-X, we aim to identify an initial cohort of four to ten research initiatives, consisting of multiple academic staff, post-doctoral researchers, PhD students and other collaborators. The initial set of research initiatives to be bootstrapped at Imperial-X will build on existing research resources.

This call for expressions of interest (EoIs) is the first step in the process for selecting research initiatives to move (at least part of) their activity to Imperial-X.

The attraction for participants is to grow their research initiatives in a high-quality space, to enhance their interaction with researchers from industry and other parts of College, and to help shape from the onset a major College strategic activity. More specifically, research initiatives at Imperial-X will benefit from:

  • Access to dedicated high-quality research space at Imperial’s White City Campus, which includes office space, experimental facilities, and potentially specialised labs.
  • Opportunity for physical co-location with industrial collaborators, project partners and other stakeholders, which goes beyond what is typically possible in traditional departmental settings.
  • Direct collaboration with other (co-located) research initiatives at Imperial-X, without being encumbered by thematic or organisational silos. 
  • Possible reduction in teaching and administrative load for academic staff (subject to negotiation with the original home Department) to focus on an Imperial-X research activity – implementing a novel “mini-sabbatical” model.
  • Direct consideration for future investment by the College and Departments, e.g., through the creation of targeted academic posts, experimental facilities, etc.
  • Higher profile, both at the College level and externally, by being promoted under the Imperial-X branding. This includes exposure through philanthropic and other fund-raising efforts.
  • Direct links with educational activities at Imperial-X, e.g. through the co-design of modules, projects, and other teaching methods.
  • Additional administrative and management support for grant applications and other funding routes available as part of Imperial-X.
  • Pathways for the co-location of academic-led start-ups arising from Imperial-X initiatives on-site at the Imperial-X White City facilities (for up to a year post incorporation). Research initiatives will also benefit from on-site development resources for start-ups. 

The above support will be tailored to the needs and wishes of initial participants. The Imperial-X team will work with the selected EoI applicants to ensure that a proposal is developed that presents a desirable and beneficial opportunity for all parties.

Each research activity should have a planned duration of at least 2 years and at most 5 years. After that time, the plan and goals of the research activity may be updated, and the activity may be renewed.

There was a virtual College Town Hall meeting about Imperial-X Research Initiatives on April 16, 2021 from 2pm–3pm on Microsoft Teams. The Town Hall was an opportunity to learn more about Imperial-X and the plans for Research Initiatives, and to ask questions related to this call.

You can view a recording of the Town Hall via MS Streams.

Eligibility

Applications are welcome from academic staff based in any Department or Institute across College.

Research initiatives should have a thematic focus that aligns with that of Imperial-X in the areas of artificial intelligence, data science and digital technologies. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), statistics
  • augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), imaging, graphics
  • data science, information engineering, data-centric engineering
  • hardware & software, programming, systems
  • networking, communications
  • robotics, automation
  • security, privacy, resilience, ethics
  • sensing, Internet-of-Things (IoT), cyber-physical systems
  • and other digital technologies.

How to apply

Expressions of interest for Imperial-X research initiatives should be completed via the Research Initiatives for Imperial-X Qualtrics form  by 30 April 2021.

Form questions:

  • Proposing academic staff member
  • Email address
  • Host department and faculty
  • Co-proposing academic staff members (with host departments and faculties)
  • Size of research team (academic staff, post-doctoral researchers, PhD students)
  • External collaborators (names and affiliations) [100 words]
  • Main research area(s) (as listed in Section 3) [100 words]
  • Title of Imperial-X Research Initiative [30 words]
  • Summary of Research Initiative [1500 words]
  • Existing research funding and resources that support the Research Initiative [100 words]
  • What major scientific breakthroughs would be made if this Research Initiatives is successful? [300 words]
  • How does the Research Initiative benefit from co-location at Imperial-X? [300 words]
  • What commercialisation and impact activities may complement your Research Initiative? [300 words]
  • What education activities may complement your Research Initiative? [300 words]
  • What outreach and engagement activities may complement your Research Initiative? [300 words]

For impact, education, and outreach, if proposers are unsure about detailed activities at this stage, it is acceptable to leave some of these as TBD, and the Imperial-X team will work with proposers to develop them for a full proposal. 

Review and selection of applications

The Imperial-X Research Initiatives Panel will judge the expressions of interest for research initiatives according to the following criteria:

Core criteria

  1. Fit with the thematic focus of Imperial-X.
  2. Ambition by targeting major scientific breakthroughs or transformational outcomes that have the potential for wide and long-term future impact.
  3. Focus on clear innovative research ideas and scientific excellence.
  4. Benefit from physical co-location, with the expectation that the centre of activity would shift to the new Imperial-X space at Imperial’s White City Campus.

Desirable criteria

  1. Multi-departmental and/or multi-faculty flavour, benefitting from the collaborative environment of Imperial-X.
  2. Existing or future plans for collaborations with industry, government partners, charities, research institutes, the NHS, and other external stakeholders.
  3. Diverse impact activities through technology commercialisation, influencing policy, advancing research methods, societal and business engagement etc.
  4. Opportunities for co-design of educational programmes at the undergraduate, post-graduate and professional education levels.
  5. Demonstration of societal relevance and plans for outreach activities to expose the work to a wider general audience.

The planned membership of the Panel is as follows:

  • Professor Peter Pietzuch, Co-director (Research), Imperial-X (Chair) - Faculty of Engineering
  • Professor Chris Tucci, Co-director (Education), Imperial-X - Business School
  • Professor Guy Nason, Co-director (Engagement), Imperial-X - Faculty of Natural Sciences
  • Professor Deborah Ashby, Board member, Imperial-X - Faculty of Medicine
  • Faculty Vice-Dean (TBC)
  • Industry representative (TBC)

Applicants will receive a response about their submission by 15 May 2021.

Next steps

The Imperial-X Board will work with shortlisted research initiatives to develop more detailed proposals. This will be a co-design process that will aim to accommodate the bespoke requirements of shortlisted research initiatives, working in partnership with Departments, Institutes and College. The initial set of research initiatives will then be launched at Imperial-X in October 2021.