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Growing organs, making blood and living under the sea: the university research that will change the way we live

16 June 2011

New report uncovers the top 100 pieces of research that will shape our future

The wealth of research currently taking place in universities across the UK is revealed today in a new report published to mark Universities Week.

David Willetts MP looking at the publication Big Ideas for the Future looks at 100 ground breaking pieces of research from all fields, including science, social sciences, engineering and the arts and the humanities. The report, which is being jointly published by Universities UK and Research Councils UK (RCUK), is narrated and backed by high-profile celebrities such as Professor Lord Robert Winston, Dr Alice Roberts and Professor Iain Stewart.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Researchers at University College London are researching ways of growing human organs for transplants.
  • Researchers at Imperial College London are developing a ‘blood factory’ to produce a continuous flow of blood for transfusions.
  • A new ‘excergaming’ system has been developed at Teesside University, where middle-aged men compete against a virtual boxing opponent in order to lose weight and improve fitness.
  • The University of Plymouth is researching a new type of robot which will be capable of becoming ‘friends' with humans.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: "The UK's world-leading science and research base is inherently valuable, as well as being a key driver for economic growth. It is important to maximise the benefits of excellent research of all kinds, which is why I am delighted that Universities Week is focusing on some of the most cutting-edge and exciting research going on at our universities.

"Research has a significant impact on society, public policy, culture, our quality of life and the economy. Projects such as the 'blood factory' to produce a continuous flow of blood for transfusions could bring a huge benefit to all of our lives, and those of future generations to come."

Professor Rick Rylance, Chair Elect of RCUK added: “Research has an impact on all our lives. Whether it is a breakthrough in experimental science, or an invention that makes new things possible, or a project that leads us to understand better the strengths and weaknesses of our society, research is the key to the UK’s growth, prosperity and wellbeing. Big Ideas for the Future showcases just some of the excellent research being carried out in UK universities that achieves these aims. It is vital we continue to support the talented individuals whose work makes a real difference.”

The publication of the report forms part of the second annual Universities Week, which takes place from 13-19 June 2011, and aims to increase public awareness of the wide and varied role of the UK’s universities. Universities Week looks at the many different ways in which universities affect all of our lives — from supporting the economy, to working within local communities, to looking at how their research programmes could change our futures. Hundreds of events open to members of the public are taking place around the country, as well as activity across social media networks.

To download a full version of the report, please visit:

For more information about Universities Week, visit and to show your support, join us on Facebook at

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Further information

For interviews and images contact Kindred:
John Coventry: 0207 010 0822
Emma Cowlard: 0207 010 0817
Elizabeth Porter: 0201 010 0851

For RCUK contact:
Jane Wakefield
Press and Communications Manager
Tel: 01793 444595 or email:

Notes to editors

  1. Universities Week is taking place from 13-19 June 2011 and aims to increase public awareness of the wide and varied role of the UK’s universities. A full list of events taking place can be found at Supporters can also find out more about the campaign by joining the Universities Week Facebook fan page at

  2. The campaign is being co-ordinated by Universities UK, the representative body for all UK universities.

  3. Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the strategic partnership of the UK's seven Research Councils. We invest annually around £3 billion in research. Our focus is on excellence with impact. We nurture the highest quality research, as judged by international peer review providing the UK with a competitive advantage. Global research requires we sustain a diversity of funding approaches, fostering international collaborations, and providing access to the best facilities and infrastructure, and locating skilled researchers in stimulating environments. Our research achieves impact – the demonstrable contribution to society and the economy made by knowledge and skilled people. To deliver impact, researchers and businesses need to engage and collaborate with the public, business, government and charitable organisations.

    The seven UK Research Councils are:

    • Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC);
    • Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC);
    • Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC);
    • Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC);
    • Medical Research Council (MRC);
    • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC);
    • Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC).