Interview with Prof. Robin Mason, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International), University of Birmingham

0
891
Robin Mason at The University of Birmingham.
What is the background of the partnership between the University of Birmingham and CRIKC/SAI?
CRIKC
The University of Birmingham signed an agreement in December 2015 with Panjab University formalising the strategic relationship between the two institutions.
Birmingham researchers had been working with Chandigarh Region Innovation and Knowledge Cluster (CRIKC) in areas including: public health and women’s cancer; advanced manufacturing; cyber security; transportation; anti-microbial resistance; and sustainable and smart cities. The outcome of these studies will tackle common challenges for both the UK and India, create impact and bring social and economic benefits to both regions.
Signing the agreement followed a series of reciprocal visits over the previous 18 months to explore how we can work in partnership in key areas of research and education.
SAI
Birmingham’s collaboration with SAI began in 2012 through the work of staff in its School of Sport, Exercise & Rehabilitation Sciences in 2012, with discussions with the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports and SAI about how the University could help the country’s athletes boost their performance.
The partnership follows the successful visit of Indian sports coaches and sports scientists to the University of Birmingham in the wake of the success of the University’s students and alumni at the 2016 Rio Olympics. This two-week programme benefited individuals from a range of sports and science disciplines in India.
What is the significance of the partnership?
CRIKC
CRIKC institutions provide excellence in research, whilst the University of Birmingham has considerable expertise and an international reputation in a range of key research areas. Birmingham researchers are working with CRIKC in areas including: public health and women’s cancer; advanced manufacturing; cyber security; transportation; anti-microbial resistance; and sustainable and smart cities. The outcome of these studies will tackle common challenges for both the UK and India, create impact and bring social and economic benefits to both regions of Chandigarh and the Midlands.
SAI
The partnership will deliver significant benefits for SAI and the University of Birmingham. SAI benefits from the latest thinking in a range of areas, including sports nutrition, sports psychology, performance analysis and injury rehabilitation – all areas in which Birmingham’s experts are world leaders. All this will benefit Indian sport. The partnership will enable the University of Birmingham to further its research and discover new ways to deliver research outcomes on the ground with Indian partners. University of Birmingham experts also benefit from feedback on the impact of their research, whilst participating in policy development and learning from the expertise of SAI and its Indian sports partners.
Please introduce which research areas would be covered and why they are important?
CRIKC
Our collaboration with CRIKC on sustainable cities chimes with Prime Minister Narenda Modi’s visionary Smart Cities Mission, to make cities citizen-friendly and sustainable. This is of great importance in India, as the country’s cities face a massive population wave that will hit them in the coming decades. Without action to combat the problem, and the underpinning research to devise solutions, India will not be able to provide essential services for its growing population.
A second area of collaboration is antimicrobial resistance. India is the world’s largest consumer of antibiotics for human health and faces significant problems with such drugs losing their power to heal. Research that tackles the causes of resistance, and how it is transmitted between bacteria, is both important and urgent.
SAI
We will work together in developing research opportunities in areas of sports science that are of mutual benefit – such as nutrition, psychology and performance enhancement. We will also work together to develop sports policy that will help improve participation in sport and health in India.
We will also develop educational opportunities, programme support and development that benefit both SAI and the University of Birmingham. These will focus on the development of Indian sports scientists, physical education teachers, coaches and other groups to support SAI through curriculum development and strategies.
What benefits will the University of Birmingham and CRIKC/SAI achieve from the partnership?
CRIKC
By working together, we have a much greater chance of finding common solutions to shared problems. We can draw upon both Indian and British expertise to benefit the peoples in both countries. Evidence shows that the research undertaken in collaboration between the University of Birmingham and CRIKC partners is truly world-leading, with joint publications being cited over 5 times the world average.
SAI
The partnership will enable the University of Birmingham to further its research and discover new ways to deliver research outcomes on the ground with Indian partners. SAI benefits from the latest thinking in a range of areas, including sports nutrition, sports psychology, performance analysis and injury rehabilitation – this benefits Indian sport. University of Birmingham experts also benefit from feedback on the impact of their research, whilst participating in policy development and learning from the expertise of SAI and its Indian sports partners.
Are there any exchange activities between the University and CRIKC/SAI after your partnership?
CRIKC
The partnership between the University and CRIKC will be long-lasting and will involve extensive exchange of faculty, students and scientific knowledge and ideas. Key to achieving this will be gain external funding support for the science being undertaken by the partnership.
SAI
We will work closely together to identify a plan of education and research that will help SAI hit the performance targets set by the Indian Government, whilst allowing the University of Birmingham to test its sports science research and education programmes in India. This represents a ‘win-win’ situation for both parties.
CRIKC-only questions
Are you running similar initiatives in other countries?
The University of Birmingham is a global university. We have developed a range of research partnerships in countries around the world. In addition to India, our key global territories are Brazil, China, the United States and Australia.
For example, we have just signed a new ¥20,000,000 agreement with Jiangsu Industry Technology Research Institute (JITRI), in China, to develop innovative research in key areas such as nanoparticle technology, biomedicine, advanced manufacturing and electronic information systems. This partnership will also help to strengthen links between Jiangsu Province and the City of Birmingham in working together on industrial research and development.
SAI-only questions
Why is important to combine coaching and science in modern sport?
In modern-day sport, it is often not enough simply to focus on coaching athletes in improving technique in their chosen sport. We live in an era in which sports science is needed to generate  marginal gains – lots of small improvements adding up to a significant improvement in performance – and sports science can help to secure those marginal gains.
Birmingham’s experts are world leaders in sports science and combining the latest research with coaching to help boost athletes’ performance. The University is as one of the UK’s top sports institutions, in terms of the quality of our coaching; and in  the way in which we apply the latest thinking in a range of areas, including sports nutrition, sports psychology, performance analysis and injury rehabilitation to help improve the performance of our athletes.
Who are some of the prominent athletes/coaches associated with the University of Birmingham?
The University of Birmingham has enjoyed outstanding Olympic success in 2016 with student Lily Owsley and alumna Sophie Bray winning gold in women’s hockey. Alumnus James Rodwell scooped silver with Rugby Sevens – part of Team GB’s record haul of 67 medals. Paralympic cycling gold medallist Lora Turnham is a former Birmingham student, as is Olympic medallist/women’s cycling coach Paul Manning MBE.