Introduction

Introduction from LIDA Co-Directors Professor Mark Birkin and Professor Chris Gale

On 11th July, LIDA celebrated 5 years as a physical institute since opening its doors in 2015.  It’s a shame that there won’t have been many people in the building to mark the occasion, and we are sure that many of you will be looking forward along with us to that time when we can begin to assemble once more as a community.  Notwithstanding the considerable inconvenience of our current working situation, it is pleasing to reflect that the pandemic has had little or no effect in diluting the vibrancy of LIDA’s research, or the continued steady growth in our portfolio.  We are confident that this will be clear to all of our readers from the contents of this Annual Review. 

We are especially gratified by the inclusion of case studies reflecting joint work with our research partners in Artificial Intelligence and Immersive Technologies.  AI continues to represent a huge opportunity which is intimately connected to the science and analytics of data, as David Hogg explains in his contribution to this report.  It is hard to see AI as anything but a lynchpin of future growth in the economy and society, and in the pursuit of science and academic innovation, in the next twenty years.  LIDA is committed to doing all that we can to foster increased capacity and capability for the University and its partners in this key domain.  The last year has also seen the launch of the Centre for Immersive Technology (CfIT) as a new unit within the University, with widespread strategic support for the emergence of an outstanding and distinctive contribution into both research and teaching across the institution.  

In recent months, the University has also seen the departure of Sir Alan Langlands as Vice-Chancellor and Lisa Roberts as DVC-Research.  We are grateful to both of them for their support and encouragement in the development of LIDA.  Whilst it is inevitable (and hugely desirable!) that changes in the Management Team will bring adjustments to the details and substance in the direction of travel of any organisation (with a new Strategic Plan now expected in 2021) it seems clear already that the digitalisation of our University will proceed at a more rapid pace than ever.  We hope that LIDA will contribute to this agenda richly and fully.  In addition to these movements at the top, LIDA itself has seen significant changes to its leadership team in recent months.  Our prospects for success can only have been enhanced by the arrival of Dom Frankis as Director of Operations, and I am sure that all of you who have encountered Dom will have been impressed by the capable and assured manner in which he has immediately adapted to LIDA.  The leadership team will also be boosted by the appointment of Alex Frangi as Research Director from 1st December.  Alex brings world-class expertise in medical imaging and AI, as well as the enthusiasm and experience to energise LIDA across the full multi-disciplinary range of our research activities.  We hope that many of you will have the opportunity to advise and interact with Alex as he seeks to chart a course to even more achievement in the coming months.  Roy Ruddle will continue as a member of the senior team as he continues to drive forward innovation in LIDA as Director of Research Technology, and has added Chair of the Senior Management Team to his many significant contributions. 

As new faces arrive, others depart, and amongst the senior team we would particularly like to thank Luke Burns and Mark Gilthorpe for their involvement as Deputy Directors for Education and Research respectively.  We hope that both will be able to stay closely engaged with LIDA in future.  Ed Manley will step aside as Interim Director of Research after a short handover to Alex but is by no means absolved of responsibility as he has agreed to press ahead with the coordination of LIDA Societies as a major new theme combining research innovation with social impact and policy relevance.  We are optimistic of reporting major successes in this theme in future Annual Reviews! 

Also moving towards new pastures next year is Phil Waywell, whose involvement as Research and Innovation Development Manager has done much to shape the structure and achievements of LIDA over the last four years and more.  In a new role, Phil will be taking more focused responsibility for new developments in health analytics, seeking to capitalise on recent progress in LIDA as a major contributor not just to regional agendas but in national activities including DataCan and Health Data Research UK.  Finally, to those others too numerous to mention and commend individually who have moved on to accept new challenges and opportunities over the last year, our sincere thanks for your involvement in LIDA and best wishes for the future.  To everyone else, as we write this at the beginning of December, we wish you all the joys of the festive season, with the hope of prosperity but above all just a bit more boring normality in 2021!

 

Professor Mark Birkin, LIDA Co-Director

Professor Chris Gale, LIDA Co-Director

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