Welcome to our new Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation
In December 2022, we welcome Professor Silke Machold as our new Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation. In her new role, Professor Machold will lead and develop the LBU research and enterprise strategy, providing leadership to our research community, and stimulating innovation.
Welcome Silke – Can you tell us about your previous roles – and what attracted to you this new role at Leeds Beckett?
For the last five years, I have been the Dean of Research at the University of Wolverhampton, where I had strategic responsibility for the University’s research, and contributed to Knowledge Exchange (KE). Prior to that, I led the Management Research Centre in the Wolverhampton Business School. I also served in a voluntary capacity as the Vice President at the European Academy of Management, which is a scholarly society based in Brussels.
I really like the ambition that Leeds Beckett has to grow its research and develop its researchers. What also attracted me was how LBU articulated its values – and I really identify with these.
What will be your priorities in your first hundred days at Leeds Beckett?
I know it may sound like a cliché, but I want to get to know the people and the teams that you work in, listen to what you see as the challenges and opportunities and see what I can do to help achieve these. A priority will be working with the Directors of Research on the plans to grow research capacity in the different schools. Finally, there are many great initiatives already underway in the city of Leeds and the wider region and I want to see how we can develop and strengthen strategic partnerships with key actors.
Where do you see the opportunities for growth and impact in Research and Knowledge Exchange over the next few years?
The Research Excellence Framework - REF2021 - and the recent Knowledge Exchange Framework - KEF2 - results are a really great basis from which to further grow research and KE. In some subject areas, a high proportion of staff are already involved, but in others we need to do more to make research and KE more inclusive and accessible. How we grow our own talent is an important part here.
The other opportunities will come from working with external collaborators – be that local authorities and other public, private and voluntary sector partners or Universities. It is really great to see that funders like UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) are developing new schemes and new modes of engagement that encourage and promote collaboration and impact, and I would love to see LBU leading on place-based schemes.
What are some of the key challenges and opportunities for LBU in terms of research and innovation?
The external funding environment remains tough. Brexit continues to create challenges in relation to participation in Horizon Europe and staff and student mobility, and the domestic successor programmes to the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) are smaller scale and more fragmented.
But LBU is really well placed to build on its impressive research and KE portfolio and the partnerships it has already formed to navigate these external challenges. Reducing bureaucracy in research and KE, promoting responsible and open research practices and having an inclusive research environment will be central to further develop LBU in this space.
Given your previous role as Dean of Research at University of Wolverhampton, what are some of your key successes that might translate into opportunities at LBU?
The one thing I am most proud of is that for REF2021 we not only increased the size and quality of our submission, it was also the most inclusive one with a higher number and proportion of women, disabled staff, staff identifying as global majority and early career researchers than ever before.
Together with Birmingham City University and 14 regional employers, we recently also won one of 13 projects funded by the Office for Students and Research England to increase access and participation for global majority students in research study. Research and research study need to be accessible, and we need different voices and lived experiences to inform what and how we do research and KE. I know there are already many initiatives underway at LBU that I really look forward to being involved with.
And can you tell us something about yourself that we may not know?
I grew up in communist East Germany, I learned Russian as my first foreign language in school and later read Russian and English at the University of Halle-Wittenberg. From a very early age, I was curious and fascinated about English literature, music, history, dialects, traditions and food. So when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, I applied for a British Council exchange programme and came to Shropshire in 1990 as a language assistant. And that, as they say, was that. I was always grateful for the opportunity that I had, and never forget what it is like not to have freedom of speech or freedom of movement.