Imperial College London

Universities must collaborate to "mend the seams of societal division"


Outreach activity in the Makerspace at the Invention Rooms

The Makerspace at the Invention Rooms, Imperial's pioneering community innovation space

Imperial needs to inspire "hope, confidence and opportunity", Professor Alice Gast says.

In her annual Autumn message to all staff, Imperial’s President said that the College will work harder to bring the benefits of its research to all corners of society through its outreach, public engagement and work with patients.

Professor Alice Gast

Professor Alice Gast

Professor Gast said: “To some, higher education is viewed as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. It is not viewed as benefitting sectors of society, not helping people who feel that universities are irrelevant to them. While we strive to be elite universities without being elitist, we fail to connect with parts of society

“Even those in the higher education community who strive hard to provide opportunity, access and support, can look like a closed club or society.

“I believe that this is a fundamental moment. We need to share our world of discovery and innovation more broadly…We can and will do more.”

Reaching out

Professor Gast wrote about Imperial’s existing outreach work, including Reach Out CPD – a free online resource, developed in partnership with Twig World, to support primary science teachers. The resource is now being used by 17,000 primary school teachers across more than 8,000 schools in the UK.

Professor Maggie Dallman tries out one of the Reach Out CPD activities

Professor Maggie Dallman trying out a Reach Out CPD experiment

Last year the College also launched Reach Out Reporter with Twig World, an online and free resource with topical science stories to help primary school children understand how science relates to the world around them. Supported by the Goldsmiths’ Company, it is available to anyone in the UK free of charge and helps parents and teachers support children’s interest in science.

White City opportunities

The President outlined how the College cannot achieve its ambitions alone: “We know that we cannot work cloistered in isolation to solve the challenges the world faces. We need partners to collaborate with us to pursue excellence in research and education for the benefit of society and to mend the seams of societal division.”

We need to share our passion and love of science, discovery, problem-solving and understanding with society in new ways

– Professor Alice Gast


At White City, Imperial is building a campus where world leading academics are working in close collaboration with corporate partners, entrepreneurs, venture funders and the community, she explained.

“Our campus will make a tremendous difference in our new neighbourhood. We can and we must share what we have, excellence in research and teaching, with people we have not historically reached.”

Community engagement is at the heart of Imperial’s plans for White City. “In order to be effective in our work with the community we must respect the talents and abilities of the people we are serving, and we must listen to their needs and desires”, Professor Gast explained.

Child in the Makerspace

The Makerspace at the Invention rooms

She cited the Invention Rooms, the campus’ pioneering community innovation space, as one way that the College is channelling its leadership in science, engineering, medicine and business into benefits for local people.

The Invention Rooms,will bring members of the community together with Imperial’s academics, students, alumni and partners to test out their creative ideas and share in the excitement of research and innovation.

A key facility in the Invention Rooms will be a workshop and design studio called the Reach Out Markerspace, which will provide local young people with hands-on experience of designing and prototyping their own products and models with equipment such as 3D printers, laser cutters, as well as wood and metalworking equipment.

Healthcare solutions

Imperial’s School of Public Health, soon to relocate to White City, is poised to have a pivotal impact on population health and well-being through prevention-focused interventions, at community, national and international level, Professor Gast explained.

Science and Sports day at White City

Science and Sports day at White City

“We will consolidate and build on our outstanding expertise in public and global health in a state-of-the-art, purposefully community-facing hub. We will take what we learn from our global research and apply it in our community and, conversely, take what we learn from White City and bring it to bear in other parts of the world” she said.

“Our work will take into account the continuum of mental and physical wellbeing as we become active partners in the lives of our neighbours. We strive to bring our research findings to the issues that most affect or impede people”.

Embracing challenge

Science and Sports day at White City

Science and Sports day at White City

Closing the letter, Professor Gast said: “If we do not now embrace the challenges we are facing in society and find additional ways to make a difference, our long-term role as an institution leading societal advancement will be endangered. We cannot afford to let our elite status disconnect us from the world around us.

“We need to share our passion and love of science, discovery, problem-solving and understanding with society in new ways to reach people we have not connected with before.”

“Together we are powerful.”


Deborah Evanson

Deborah Evanson
Communications Division

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