Abertay University: Research Excellence Framework shows Abertay University’s real-world impact

Work to change human trafficking laws, evidence that contributed to repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, a project to increase the value of the Scottish video games industry and the creation of the world’s first ‘climate positive’ gin, are among the impactful research projects highlighted in Abertay University’s Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 outcomes.

The REF is the UK higher education sector’s barometer for research quality, and while it does not rank universities the data produced is used within the sector and in the media to benchmark research performance.

Abertay recorded a 23% increase in research that is ‘internationally excellent’ or ‘world-leading’ since the last REF in 2014 – the biggest climb of any Scottish university, according to our own analysis.

There was particularly strong performance in the areas of Art & Design (covering work in digital games), Engineering (including work in cybersecurity, computing and environmental engineering) and Food Science, which respectively had 83%, 73% and 65% of research rated as ‘internationally excellent’ or ‘world-leading’.

All of the ‘impact case study’ examples Abertay provided for Art & Design and Engineering were assessed as having ‘outstanding’ or ‘very considerable’ real world reach and significance.

Abertay takes an inclusive approach to the REF process and every staff member submitted is also involved in teaching our students. This ensures a focus on researcher career development, giving our staff the experience required to develop in their professional fields, and our students access to research-active tutors.

Some of Abertay’s individual projects classed as ‘internationally excellent’ or ‘world-leading’ in REF 2021 included:

Development of legume-based products for the food and animal feed industries, including the world’s first ‘climate positive’ gin and vodka products and work to reduce the use of fertilizers by Scottish farmers (valued at £13.3m per year).

Creation of digital technologies for use by industry and government in management of water supplies that contributed to increased turnover and employment in the Scottish water industry and improved access to clean drinking water by rural communities in Malawi.

Work with V&A Dundee and the Scottish video games industry to develop better understanding of players’ experience of games, supporting companies to develop more successful products.

The multi-million-pound InGAME (Innovation for Games and Media Enterprise) R&D centre for the video games industry is led by Abertay, in collaboration with the University of Dundee and the University of St Andrews. This project has proved an area of clear strength for Abertay in the REF, combining our expertise in the development of software with an understanding of the creative processes essential to making successful video games.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Liz Bacon said: “The recognition our research has received in REF2021 underlines the genuine impact the University has had in producing practical solutions to real-world problems and shows the benefits of our inclusive approach to developing our researchers and supporting our students. Abertay continues to perform well above what might be expected for our small size and this positive outcome is testament to the dedication and hard work of our staff, who continued to deliver high quality research despite the challenges of the pandemic.”

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