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New Year’s message from the Director of the University of Bristol's Cabot Institute

At the start of a new year, I wanted to acknowledge the achievements of our colleagues at the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute over the past year and to summarise our priorities for 2016.
Cabot Institute members celebrating Cabot's 5th birthday at the University of Bristol.
2015 was a genuinely historical year for the Cabot Institute and for Bristol. I do not use that term lightly.  During the year in which the Institute celebrated its 5th anniversary, many of us worked extensively with the City to host the European Green Capital and contribute substantively to the Paris Climate summit. We raised our profile both in the city and internationally, directly showcasing Cabot Institute research to over 100,000 people – and far more if we include coverage in the national and international press.

This was happening against a background of collaborative activity that included the funding of UKCRIC (UK Collaboratorium for Research in Infrastructure & Cities) and the launch of Bristol is Open; new initiatives in Anticipation, sustainable livestock, Global Insecurities, urban pollinators, and flood forecasting; and new investment in a radiocarbon accelerator, the Nuclear Hub, and high performance computing. Collectively, these efforts and the Green Capital engagement served as the platform for solidifying the University’s relationship with our city.  It is clear that a strong partnership with a thriving and global city will be essential for UK HEIs in the coming decade, and we are proud that so many members of the Cabot Institute have contributed to that.  We have partnered in events, served on strategic working groups, consulted, advised, fostered debate and provided research that is currently being used to frame the city’s strategy and policies.

All of that occurred alongside Hugh Brady’s arrival, joining as the new Vice Chancellor (VC), and the University-wide strategic review. I cannot stress enough how impressed our new VC is with all aspects of our environmental, risk and sustainability research as well as the quality and ambition of our partners and the leadership (at all levels) in the city.  It seemed that every new initiative was followed by a new award (and particular kudos to the volcanologists! And to Eric Herring and Somalia First!  And to many others!). All of that required a huge amount of effort from many of you. Thank you and well done!  And of course, special thanks to the entire Cabot team, who achieved this while helping the university manage personnel reshuffling and while directly contributing their time to the Strategic Review.  Cabot has emerged as a central component of the University strategy and its vision; that derives primarily from the excellence of the academics working in the Cabot space (and rightly so!) but also the incredible flexibility and hard work of Hayley Shaw, Amanda Woodman-Hardy, Amanda Gray, Philippa Bayley, Mike Harris and Caroline Bird.  Thanks gang!

The University of Bristol's Volcanology team has been awarded the Queen’s
Anniversary Prize for Higher Education – the highest accolade for any academic
institution – in recognition of its world-leading research in volcanology. 
Image credit Susanna Jenkins.
Arising from that, all of us will have exciting new opportunities in 2016 and beyond.  We will support Hugh and our City. We will consolidate the partnerships initiated during the Green Capital year – not just with Bristol City Council but with numerous other local partners. Crucially, we will use this as a platform to raise our national visibility.

Having said that, we will be less ‘event-focussed’ in 2016 and put more effort into supporting Cabot’s academic community and key partners proposals and initiatives.  We did that last year, but it was impacted by the plethora of Green Capital activity; our support of your ideas will receive renewed focus this year.  This is one reason why we are so excited to have been able to keep Hayley on the team upon Philippa’s return and that we were able to extend Mike’s contract. Both will be in place to work with you to develop proposals, host visitors and secure partners.

We will also be putting renewed effort into building connections across our community. We will be building the Global Development working group and working with the other URIs to host workshops around inequality and resilience. We will be working even more closely with our Theme Leads – especially with John Beddington and a reconfigured Advisory Board – to stimulate new discussions and identify the areas where we can best support our members.
Khadir Abdi (left) from the Somali First core team with Professor Eric Herring,
who won the Engagement Awards in 2015 for their work in global development.
Finally, as Cabot contributes to the implementation of the new University Strategy, we will spend more time consulting our members, ensuring we are properly representing your priorities and making the most of the opportunities arising over the next decade.

We have learned a lot and built a very strong Institute over our first five years; we intend to use 2016 to explore Cabot members’ needs and opportunities so that we can grow the right way over the next five years.

These are exciting times in the University and we are proud to represent areas of great research strength. It is clear that the suite of environmental, risk, sustainability and future cities research that Cabot comprises will be at the heart of the University’s research strategy over the next decade – but also part of its institutional, international and teaching strategy.  We are all looking forward to working together to achieve this.
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This blog is by Prof Rich Pancost, Director of the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol
Prof Rich Pancost

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