University launches new institute to address biggest issues facing society

Posted on Tuesday 9th April 2013

250 years after the creation of the Lunar Society, which brought together leading industrialists, academics and philosophers to debate the biggest issues affecting society, the University of Birmingham is launching an Institute of Advanced Studies with a similar remit.

The Institute, which launches on Wednesday 10 April, aims to address some of the biggest challenges facing society by combining academic expertise from across the University and around the globe, with insight from business, NGOs and policy makers.

Professor Malcolm Press, Pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of Birmingham and director of the new Institute said: “What is distinctive and exciting about our Institute of Advanced Studies is the breadth. We are not just centred around social sciences and humanities, but bring together science, engineering and medicine as well, covering the full range of activities at the University. By bringing this broad range of experts together to research a particular theme, the University has the potential to transform traditional approaches to addressing major global issues.”

The first two themes that will be addressed by the Institute are ‘Saving Humans’ and ‘Regeneration Economies’.

Regeneration Economies aims to establish the University as a major interdisciplinary centre of excellence for understanding and developing solutions to problems facing regional economies in places like the West Midlands and the Midwest in America. It will draw on the experiences of Birmingham and its sister city Chicago in order to gain a better understanding and explore new ideas for developing regional economies.

Saving Humans will bring together researchers from across the University and beyond to investigate how risk to human life is constructed and measured, how interventions are decided and carried out and what can be learned from the experience of survivors.

Speaking at the launch, Regeneration Economies theme leader, Professor John Bryson, Professor of Enterprise and Competitiveness at the University of Birmingham, said: “The existing approaches to understanding regional problems are no longer useful for understanding cities that are experiencing an on-going process of economic regeneration.

“People may be unhappy with our research and critical of our new approach – but by doing that we are going to move forward the debate and our understanding. The Institute of Advanced Studies provides a great opportunity for this region to develop a new way of thinking and face up to the challenges facing our economy.”

Professor Heather Widdows, Professor of Global Ethics at the University of Birmingham added: “Saving Humans will be the second theme for the Institute and will launch in September. We will be exploring a range of threats to human life from health and environmental threats to security and conflict. We are currently identifying policy-makers, practitioners and activists who will work alongside our leading academics to research and develop new approaches that affect real world situations.”

For further information about The Institute of Advanced Studies and the inaugural themes, you can visit the Institute's website. You can also watch the video 'Regeneration Economies: Transforming People, Place and Production'.

ENDS

For media enquiries please contact Jo Kite, Head of Communications, University of Birmingham +44 (0)121 414 6681