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RETF funding for five research projects

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The Research Endowment Trust Fund (RETF) supports the strategic development of promising and ambitious research ideas and emerging initiatives in the University. In a recent competitive process, the University Committee for Research and Innovation awarded £190,900 from its RETF Open Fund to five new projects.

The RETF Open Fund supports projects of up to two years’ duration that align with the strategic priorities of the University or their respective Research Themes. The aim is to support proposals that:

  • demonstrate ambition to achieve growth in research income, scale, methodologies, partnerships, reputation or audiences
  • enable high-risk research – for example providing proof of concept to inform external grant applications, or
  • support innovation and the translation of research into products and processes, for example, by supporting pilot projects.

Professor Dominik Zaum, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said: “Congratulations to those researchers who have won awards in this round. As in previous years, we had a large number of strong applications, from researchers at all career stages. The successful projects come from a range of disciplinary areas, reflecting the breadth of our research, and many deepen or develop new research partnerships.”

Those receiving funding include:

  • Gabor Thomas (Archaeology) for his project Seminal Visions of the Early Medieval Past: Unlocking the Lyminge Excavation Archive - This project will unlock the potential of an archaeological archive created by large-scale research excavations at Lyminge, Kent, the results of which have provided unprecedented insights into daily life and the formation and consolidation of monastic culture in early medieval Britain. With the support of a project technician, a suite of analyses will be performed on the digital archive to build a detail picture of the spatial organisation and chronological development of the site. The results will be used to write a thematic monograph and develop interdisciplinary funding applications to maximise the scholarly potential of key findings.
  • Sakthi Vaiyapuri (Pharmacy) for the project Clinical significance of a novel signalling axis as a mediator of thromboinflammation during COVID-19 and ageing - Platelets are small circulating blood cells that play critical roles in the regulation of blood clotting to prevent excessive bleeding upon injury. They also act as sentinels to mediate our body’s immune responses. It is essential to tightly control the functions of platelets as any defects in their regulation will result in unwarranted blood clotting and/or augmented immune responses leading to life-threatening conditions. It has been widely reported that COVID-19 patients display rapidly increased immune responses resulting in the formation of small blood clots in their blood vessels, and some of them are susceptible for strokes. During ageing, many people display a slow increase in their immune responses which can induce various complications. Hence, in this project, we aim to determine the significance of a novel signalling axis as a key target to control the platelet-mediated actions on unnecessary blood clotting and augmented immune responses during COVID-19 and ageing.




  • Anthony Powell and Paz Vaqueiro (Chemical Sciences) for their project Beyond Lithium: Towards Next-Generation Rechargeable Magnesium Batteries - This project will develop advanced materials for magnesium-based batteries for applications associated with renewable energy generation. Although the rechargeable lithium-ion battery (LIB) is ubiquitous in mobile applications, constraints on the abundance and availability of raw materials limits their use in large-scale energy-storage applications. Magnesium is 10,000 times more abundant than lithium and one-eighth of the cost. Magnesium-based batteries also offer energy densities up to twice that of LIBs. Novel materials-design principles will be exploited to create magnesium batteries with increased capacity and improved rechargeability.




  • Tristan Quaife (Meteorology) for work on Establishing a Research Woodland for the University of Reading - As part of ongoing development at the University of Reading’s Thames Valley Science Park, a new woodland is planned to offset the associated carbon emissions. Our project aims to further utilise this woodland as a research platform for the University. We will deploy state of the art equipment to monitor carbon uptake and share these data with the global research community. This is a significant opportunity to gain insight into the efficacy of a key climate change mitigation strategy and understand co-benefits such as increasing biodiversity. We expect to see increases in birds, invertebrates and fungi among others and will make regular biodiversity assessments. The tree species planted will be native to the UK and closely follow the composition of other near-by woodlands. The new woodland will be open for collaboration with researchers from all disciplines across the University and, once the trees are mature, we aim to provide public access for both educational and recreational purposes.
  • Lucia Nagib and John Gibbs (Film, Theatre & Television) for their project An Amorous Discourse: Remapping the World Through Cinephilia - This innovative ‘practice as research’ project aims to retell the history of cinema through documentary films and analytical video essays. It will produce a film series called An Amorous Discourse, for international distribution in cinemas and streaming platforms, weaving together films and filmmakers from all over the world through the way they cite and pay homage to one another. RETF funding will enable the applicants to produce two pilot films; raise funding for and produce the first instalment of the series, the feature-length documentary Films to Die For; and develop research funding applications on the hitherto undertheorised genre of ‘film on films’. The project will generate strategic partnerships to maximise the impact of the research and offer creative ways of bridging academia and wider society. An Amorous Discourse builds upon the applicants’ experience in film analysis through audiovisual practice, in particular Nagib’s award-winning documentary Passages and Gibbs’s acclaimed video essays.

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