Professor Sir Steve Smith retires after 18 years

Professor Sir Steve Smith, who was Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter from October 2002 offically retired from his position at the University at the end of August 2020. Following this he took up a prestigious new role as International Education Champion from September 2020.

In this video, Sir Steve shares a farewell message for University of Exeter alumni and supporters.

Neuroimaging expert will optimise Exeter’s £10 million new centre

Professor Marios Politis, has been appointed Professor of Neurology and Director of the new £10 million Mireille Gillings Neuroimaging Centre at the University of Exeter Medical School. His research involves using cutting edge PET and MRI scanners to understand how the brain works, and to gain insight into how best to prevent and treat diseases including dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Marios and his Neurodegeneration Imaging Group are moving to Exeter after six years of leading Neuroimaging research at King’s College London. They will conduct much of their research at the University’s brand new Mireille Gillings Neuroimaging Centre, which Marios will lead. Funded by the Dennis and Mireille Gillings Foundation, the facility is based at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, and allows researchers to analyse how the brain responds on a molecular level.

Marios said: “I’m thrilled about the Exeter vision, and the new facilities that will be available at the new Mireille Gillings Neuroimaging Centre are very appealing to me. I’m really excited to lead a centre that will make a huge impact in achieving Exeter’s strong global ambition and there is not a better moment to join such a prestigious Institution.”

Marios has received a high number of awards including the Movement Disorder Society Award for Outstanding and Innovative Clinical Research (2012), the IMPETus award for innovative and outstanding PET molecular imaging research (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016) and the PET Investigator Award from the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (2015). In 2016, he was elected Fellow of the European Academy of Neurology for outstanding contribution in neurodegenerative research. In 2017, he received the Jon Stolk Award in Movement Disorders from the American Academy of Neurology and was elected Fellow of Royal College of Physicians.

His breakthrough work in Parkinson’ disease have been widely covered by the media and has generated publications in high impact-factor journals.

Professor Clive Ballard, Executive Dean and Pro Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “I’m absolutely delighted by Marios’s appointment. He’s genuinely among the very best in his field, and this announcement is a major coup for Exeter. It will mean our new Centre is immediately on the global map for brain imaging research that will have real patient benefit.”

Exeter professors honoured in Queen’s Birthday Honours

Professor Sir Roy Sambles FRS from the University of Exeter and Professor Sir Stephen Holgate, a national authority on the links between allergy and asthmas, who holds an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Exeter Medical School, have been awarded knighthoods in the Queen’s birthday honours in October 2020.

Professor Sambles, from Exeter’s Physics and Astronomy department, received the distinguished honour for services to scientific research and outreach.

He has been professor of experimental physics at the University since 1991. His research now focuses on the electromagnetic and acoustic properties of metamaterials encompassing potential developments in ‘cloaking’ as well as radio frequency communications.

His earlier work included studies of the fundamentals of melting, spin waves in alkali metals, liquid crystal optics and plasmonics.

Professor Sir Stephen Holgate holds an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Exeter Medical School. He is MRC Professor of Immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton.

Stephen has devoted his career to focusing on the interface between basic sciences and clinical application to improve our understanding and treatment of allergy and asthma and remains one of the world’s foremost spokespeople on the dangerous impact of air pollution. Recognised as one of the top specialists in his field, both nationally and internationally, many leading appointments, including Government advisor, underline his high level of expertise and experience. He is also a long-time member of the advisory board of the University of Exeter’s European Centre for the Environment and Human Health.

Many congratulations to both Roy and Stephen on the reception of their knighthoods and the prestigious recognition of their services to their respective fields.

Professor Roy Sambles (top) and Honorary Graduate Professor Sir Stephen Holgate (bottom)

South West Institute of Technology (SWIoT) Observatory building underway

Construction is now underway for the South West Institute of Technology (SWIoT) building on our Streatham Campus. Once complete, the site will house an adaptable space for the delivery of digital Degree Apprenticeships, including an Artificial Intelligence Arena and Computer Learning Laboratory.

One of the long-term aims of SWIoT is for the South West to become a key region for digital, engineering and manufacturing technologies. To help achieve this, the SWIoT Observatory, which is situated in the University’s Graduate School of Education, has been established.

The purpose of the SWIoT Observatory is to engage with regional employers and invite them to collaborate with us in designing future curricula, teaching content and modes of delivery. At the University of Exeter, the SWIoT Observatory offers a unique opportunity for regional employers to drill down with us, to understand the skills shortages their organisations need to overcome, so that instead of simply adapting to changes in the future workplace, we are able to actually shape what that future workplace will look like. As a result, the courses and teaching we offer will be based on actual industry need, not only supporting employers and the regional economy, but helping us to shape a more productive and specifically focussed future.

A number of key themes will emerge through the SWIoT Observatory, which will initially invite employers to collaborate with us on the subjects of data and nuclear science. For more information on the SWIoT Observatory, please contact Dr Georgina Tarling, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, or Professor Justin Dillon, Professor of Science and Environmental Education in the Graduate School of Education.

Exeter’s pioneering approach to sustainability secures prestigious Guardian award

Pivotal work conducted by staff and students to transform the University of Exeter’s approach to sustainability has won a prestigious Guardian University Award.

The transformative work carried out by the University’s Climate Emergency Working Group won the Sustainability category at the annual awards on 25 November 2020. The University also secured runner-up position in the Business Collaboration category, for its work as part at the SETsquared Partnership’s Scale-Up Programme.

Professor Lisa Roberts, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter said: “It is a wonderful achievement to have secured the Guardian Sustainability Award; this is richly-deserved recognition for the hard work and dedication shown by our students and staff on tackling this important issue. The University is committed to being a leading light in driving forward changes in our approach to sustainability, reflecting our research into the climate and environment and our work in providing solutions to these problems.  We still have much to do, but to be recognised for the work carried out so far is a fantastic boost for everyone involved.

“I am also overjoyed that the pivotal support and work carried out by the SETsquared Partnership has been recognised again. The Scale-Up Programme offers brilliant support and expertise to help turn ideas into successful businesses, which is crucial for the continued success of our regional economy, especially as we work together to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Exeter’s commitment to sustainability centred around Exeter declaring an environment and climate emergency in 2019, in response to reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others about the impacts of global warming, as well as calls from staff and students to take action.

Meanwhile, the SETsquared partnership, between five research-led universities in the south of England (Exeter, Bath, Bristol, Southampton, Surrey) supports entrepreneurs to turn ideas into successful businesses. Its  Scale-Up Programme, which also includes Cardiff University, started in 2018 with £10.9 million in funding from the university partners and Research England, which committed £5 million over three years to the project. It aims to support businesses at the next stage of development: capable of scaling globally but that need university-grade innovation to realise their ambitions.

The Exeter hip: 50 years of making healthcare better

An innovative hip stem developed in Exeter 50 years ago on 27 November 2020 has now been implanted in more than two million patients across the globe.

The Exeter hip stem was developed in a collaboration between NHS surgeon Professor Robin Ling and University of Exeter engineer Dr Clive Lee, and is globally manufactured by Stryker. Their ground-breaking design overcame a problem of previous hip implants – that they eventually became slightly loose, requiring further surgery.

Previous prosthetic hips had been designed with the idea that the implant should remain rigidly fixed to the acrylic bone cement in which it is implanted.

Ling and Lee’s design was revolutionary. Unlike previous prosthetic hip stems, the Exeter design did not have a collar between the neck and the stem of the implant. This allowed the stem to subside slightly into the acrylic, self-tightening as it did so. This made best use of the material properties of the polymer when bearing weight as the person moved on their new hip. This helped to significantly reduce the number of follow-up revision surgeries needed.

Since the first implant on November 27 1970, the Exeter hip stem has been implanted globally in over two million patients, with one million happening in the last 10 years alone. In 2018, Universities UK listed the Exeter Hip among the 100 best breakthroughs from university innovation. Its success continues to grow, with research demonstrating its longevity.

Exeter in global top five for research on green space and public health

The University of Exeter has leapt into the top five institutions in the world for research output on the links between green space and public health.

Exeter is currently number four in a list of the most productive institutions globally to study how exposure to green space can improve public health, according to a review of the field in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

The review found that Exeter has published 148 research papers between 2010 and 2019. Environmental research is a priority area across the University, and in 2010, the European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH) was established. The past decade has also seen the establishment of the Environment and Sustainability Institute at Exeter. Both centres make a significant contribution to research in the field of the interactions between health and nature. Exeter did not feature in the rankings top ten for the two decades prior to 2010.

Professor Lora Fleming, Director of the University of Exeter European Centre for Environment and Human Health, said: “Ranking in the global top five for research output in the field of green space and public health is a major endorsement of the huge impact our Centre, and colleagues in the wider University, have made across the world. It’s an incredibly important area of research. As our world becomes increasingly populated, we need to understand the value of green spaces so we can feed into policy to improve access and optimise people’s mental health.”

Business School ranks among world’s best in prestigious global MBA rankings

The University of Exeter Business School’s internationally accredited MBA programme, The Exeter MBA, has ranked in the top four programmes for the UK and Europe in the Corporate Knights’ Better World MBA Rankings 2020.

The Exeter MBA improved on its 2019 showing by securing an overall 11th place in the global rankings, in which 150 Business Schools were evaluated across 24 countries.

“The core aim of The Exeter MBA is to inspire leaders for a better world, so it is hugely satisfying to be recognised as one of the top Business Schools encouraging students to think differently and address the social and environmental problems that threaten the future of business,” said Jackie Bagnall, Programme Director of The Exeter MBA.

“As industries and societies wake up to the importance of creating sustainable practice we are proud that this value is embedded throughout our teaching and research as we strive to create the leaders of tomorrow.”

The Corporate Knights’ Better World MBA Rankings grades schools on five indicators: the number of institutes and centres dedicated to sustainable development, the percentage of core courses that integrate sustainable development, faculty research publications and citations on sustainable development themes, and faculty gender and racial diversity.

The University of Exeter Business School, one of the few Business Schools to have attained triple-accreditation from AMBA, EQUIS and AACSB, offers The Exeter MBA for full-time study over 12 months. Focused on sustainability, purposeful leadership, innovation and technology, students are equipped with the tools and skills to transform not only themselves but also the world around them.

Exeter experts recognised as being among world’s most influential scientists

Fourteen scientists from Exeter, and a further three who are affiliated to the University, feature in an authoritative new list of the most highly cited researchers worldwide, produced by Clarivate Analytics. Now in its seventh year, the ranking identifies researchers who demonstrated significant influence in their chosen field or fields through the publication of multiple highly cited papers during the last decade. They are drawn from the publications that rank in the top 1% by citations for field and publication year in the Web of Science™ citation index.

Exeter’s cohort, which has increased from last year, includes some of world’s leading experts in climate and environment research.

They include Professor Peter Cox,  Professor Kevin Gaston of the Environment and Sustainability Institute on the Penryn Campus, Professor Neil Adger, Professor James Screen, Professor Michael Depledge from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health, Professor Tim Lenton from Geography and Director of the Global Systems Institute, Professor Katrina Brown and Professor Jack Bowden who all feature in the Cross-Field category.

Leading climate scientist Professor Pierre Friedlingstein and  Professor Tamara Galloway, one of the world’s foremost experts on plastics pollution, feature in the Environment/Ecology category of the ranking, while Professor Friedlingstein again and Professor Stephen Sitch are featured in the Geosciences ranking.

Professor Patrick Devine- Wright (Geography) and Dr Mathew White are ranked in the Social Sciences category.

Professor Adam Scaife is included in the rankings under his affiliation with the Met Office, Professor Penelope Lindeque features under her affiliation with Plymouth Marie Laboratory, while Professor Chris Huntingford (Mathematics) appears primarily for his association with the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

The full 2020 Highly Cited Researchers list and executive summary can be found online.

Innovative virtual field trips secure award in ‘Oscars of Higher Education’

Inspirational and innovative software that provides virtual field trips to almost anywhere in the world, developed by academics at the University of Exeter, has won a prestigious national award.

The Interactive Virtual Environments for Teaching and Assessment (InVEnTA) software, run by the College of Life and Environmental Sciences (CLES), lifted the Technological or Digital Innovation of the Year trophy at the sixteenth annual THE Awards. The University of Exeter Business School were also highly commended for their work on sustainability in the ‘Business School of the Year’ category.

The THE Awards – widely referred to as the ‘Oscars of higher education’ – are the biggest celebration in the UK HE calendar, attracting hundreds of entries from individuals, teams and institutions from all corners of the country. 2020’s ceremony, held on the evening of 26 November 2020, was held online for the first time, but still over a thousand people logged in to hear this year’s winners announced. 

The InVEnTA software, which uses 3D visualisation and gaming techniques to recreate environments from Africa to the Arctic Circle, was created by three senior lecturers in physical geography – Steven Palmer, Damien Mansell and Anne Le Brocq. The judges said that among “an excellent set of submissions”, InVEnTA stood out “because of its potential to extend the classroom into a virtual world”.

Speaking after the awards, Dr Steven Palmer said: “We’re delighted to have been awarded the THE 2020 award for Technological or Digital Innovation of the Year. On behalf of the whole InVEnTA team, I’d like to thank the panel for recognising the potential of the software for expanding the boundaries of the classroom into a virtual world. We’re working hard to make the software available to other HE and FE institutions soon, so ‘watch this space’.”

Business School launches new Exeter Sustainable Finance Centre

A new research centre will focus on finance and sustainability, an area experiencing huge growth within the financial sector.

Professor Chendi Zhang will be heading up the new Exeter Sustainable Finance Centre (ESF), which will draw on the Business School’s vast expertise in the areas of sustainability, finance, accounting, economics and management.

He said: said: “If you think 10-15 years ago sustainability in finance was a niche area, but now it’s entered the mainstream and will be considered one of the main factors in finance for years to come.

“I am very excited that the new ESF Centre will be at the forefront of these exciting new developments.”