Head of Research Support - Research Strategy and Services Division - 100823 - Grade 9

University of Birmingham
United Kingdom
£53,353- £80,613
Closing date
Dec 2, 2022

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Position Details

Research Strategy and Services Division

Location: University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham UK

Full time starting salary is normally in the range £53,353 to £61,823, with potential progression once in post to £80,613

Grade 9

3 x Full Time, Permanent

Closing date: 5th December 2022

Interviews for the role will be held in December.


The University of Birmingham is a global institution working within a diverse and vibrant City, offering an inspiring education to our students, and undertaking critically important research. We are a place of open, critical thinking, and the creation, sharing, and dissemination of knowledge. Professional Services put students at the heart of all they do and enable an exceptional educational experience. They provide outstanding support to our researchers and help the University to grow its influence regionally, nationally, and globally. They ensure the University's resources are used wisely, manage and improve the infrastructure which sits at the heart of the institution, and support decisions to be made quickly and based on sound evidence. Our Birmingham Professional programme operates across the University, supporting colleagues to network and collaborate, offering opportunities to learn and develop, contributing to the delivery of the University's objectives, and helping everyone to understand the broader context within which we work.

Department Overview

The University has an exciting vision to build on the success of REF2021, by continuing to transform its research performance across outputs, income, impact, and policy influence. Central to this ambition is the Research Strategy & Services Division (RSSD), a new Professional Services department that is being established to provide a transformative and sector-leading approach to research strategy and support.

Role Summary

Three new senior roles as Head of Research Support have been created to support our exciting new Research Division - the Head of Research Support (College of Arts & Law and College of Social Sciences); Head of Research Support (Engineering & Physical Sciences and Life & Environmental Sciences) and the Head of Research Support (Medical & Dental Sciences). The post holders will support the Assistant Director (Research Strategy & Services) to deliver sector-leading services of research strategy, development, and support to researchers from a defined College, and to provide insightful and proactive support to the development of thematic research applications and partnerships that bring together researchers from multiple cross college disciplines. They will embed a culture of collaborative and devolved leadership throughout the team, that empowers all staff within the team to thrive, and will work in close partnership with the wider University Professional Services, ensuring that academics and external partners receive a consistent and high-quality service to build strong credibility across all functions.

Successful candidates will work alongside colleagues from the RSSD and the Colleges to establish and subsequently lead new research support teams that will provide support for researchers across research development, research support and facilitation, and contracts and research related agreements. This is a high volume and highly complex portfolio that encompasses regulatory compliance (data security, data protection, Export Control, Nagoya Protocol, the National Security & Investment Act 2022) funder terms and conditions (good research conduct, due diligence of external partners, spend eligibility) and contracting (intellectual property, publishing rights, confidentiality, materials transfer, academic exchange).

Post holders will be responsible for developing effective systems and procedures to manage this high value, highly complex contracts portfolio valued at between £170M - £200M per annum, ensuring that these are risk-based such that the service is proportionate and effective, enabling risk whilst ensuring that the University and its individual researchers are protected and making informed decisions. To ensure that the team is recognised as a 'trusted expert' by the University and its partners, the role holder will embed a culture of continuous professional training and development, for all staff, and will ensure that the team and wider RSSD is well connected to external organisations such that the Division responds quickly and effectively to evolving regulatory and legal requirements, with this including internal policy developments as required.

Post holders will also lead on the provision of highly effective and specialist research facilitation and support to researchers from across the College, involving the development of competitive business cases and research applications to a wide range of funders in a highly competitive market with increasingly challenging success rates. Working closely with the Research Strategy & Development Manager, the role holder will develop and oversee the delivery of a sector-leading research support environment, in which researchers receive specialist funder advice on a 1-1 and group basis, dedicated support for the drafting and submission of research applications, co-ordination and negotiation across collaborative proposals with external partners and collaborators to ensure a strong outcome for the University, development of detailed financial costings often working with a range of external collaborators, internal approvals, particularly with regards to the provision of institutional finance, submission, and smooth handover to post-award. In support of the University's 2030 research ambitions, the role holder will develop an environment in which research facilitation looks ahead over a three year cycle, developing a programme of funder workshops, sandpits, 1-1 support and external partnership development, ensuring that these activities are delivered by Senior Research Facilitators and Research Facilitators working closely with the Research Partnerships & Impact Team, across College Research Strategy & Support Team, connecting with external funders, partners, and collaborators in a proactive manner.

The role will involve a large amount of staff leadership and customer service and collaboration with internal and external stakeholders including researchers, national and international industrial, commercial, charitable and health organisations and major research funders. Working in partnership with the Colleges, and teams within RSSD and across the Professional Services will be key to the way that the new RSSD will operate and therefore successful candidates must be able to demonstrate a strongly collaborative approach.

Main duties
  1. Deputise for the Director, Research Strategy & Services Division, and the Assistant Directors Research Strategy & Services, as required and regularly in high level delegations to campus from senior, board level representatives of major funders and partners ensuring that the University builds strong and effective partnerships in the pursuit of research income, impact, and influence
  1. Leading a Research Support Team of between 15-25 practitioners, effectively manage and agree prioritisation of workload to ensure resources are deployed optimally to deliver a portfolio of work across:
    • research development (including focussed and proactive support to increase applications and awards in key funders; 1-1 and small group research funding planning with researchers; and formation of key funder relationships).
    • research facilitation and support (support to narrative drafting of proposal; partner liaison in large complex bids costing, proposal development, costings, pricing, institutional match funding, compliance with funder terms and conditions, submission to funder); and
    • the negotiation and agreement of research contracts and research-related agreements with delegated approval to agree such arrangements on behalf of the University.
  1. In pursuit of the University's Birmingham 2030 ambition to be a top 50 research intensive university including rising to the 7th in the UK for research income, to develop and lead an innovative programme of research support that increases the success rates of research grants and contracts applications, significantly improves the setup times of grants and contracts, and increases the effective realisation of research income. This to include the development and oversight of performance measures to ensure that the impact of service innovations are clearly understood, that systemic issues are recognised and addressed, teams are supported to effectively deliver, and services are continually improved.
  1. As a contracts signatory for the University, ensure that there is a clear negotiating framework for all research and research related contracts, that is regularly reviewed and updated, which supports the negotiation of all agreements relating to research, ensuring that this contents appropriate provision for the protection of Intellectual Property, the effective transfer and protection of data including highly sensitive data, the right to publish academic work, and the recovery of appropriate funds to support research to support the overall financial position of the College and University. Developing staff within the team to do the same, ensuring a strong, proportionate and risk based approach to research contracting at the University. These agreements to include industry funded contract research, collaboration agreements, material transfer agreements, confidentiality/non-disclosure agreements, Sponsorship Agreements, and Site Agreements;
  1. To support teams with more complex research applications and contracts as and when required, leading on such projects whilst providing team members the opportunity to develop their own skills in this regard via close working and ongoing mentorship in a culture of continuous professional development.
  1. Develop a vibrant and sector-leading approach to proactive research development, facilitation, and support, to ensure that the University submits highly competitive research applications to prestigious funders, maintaining strong oversight of success rates per funder and taking proactive steps to address this when required. This to ensure a proactive programme of research development that operates on a three year cycle, to ensure that the University is well placed to influence and respond to funding calls, to win research funds that support the delivery of world-class by all of our researchers.
  1. Working closely with senior Professional Services colleagues, ensure that approved research applications can progress effectively through the University's Finance, HR, and Procurement systems, in support of the RSSD's role as the functional lead for research at the University and significantly improving the satisfaction of academics with the overall research support services at the University, to enable research to happen in an effective and efficient way.
  1. Develop strong external networks across the sector and empower the team to do the same, ensuring that the University is well connected to major funders, partners, and collaborators from the public sector, industry and policy organisations to support our wider research strategy to deliver 'research that matters' regionally, nationally, and internationally with a particular focus on UKRI, major research sponsors, government department and agencies, ensuring the College and University are well connected and influential and work with Russell Group Universities and professional bodies to ensure best practice at Birmingham.
  1. Develop and embed a strong culture of collaboration, information and data sharing, and symbiotic working across the team to provide an agile, responsive and customer-focused service to researchers, external partners, and funders, to support the research ambitions of the College and the wider University in line with the Strategic Framework.
  1. Work collaboratively to ensure that the RSSD operates as a collaborative and joined-up eco-system in which all staff are supported and encouraged to work successfully across team boundaries, and take personal responsibility, working closely with other Head, Research Support, for creating cross-college 'communities of practitioners' to support thematic areas of work; e.g. working with the Research Impact Teams to ensure that impact is fully considered and embedded into grant proposals, and with the REF Team to support future national research assessment exercises;
  1. Be responsible for HR matters within the team, leading and developing staff and ensuring that the recruitment, development and retention of highly capable staff is supported by clear development/career plans and performance processes and providing active support for, and leadership of, EDI matters;
  1. Bring innovative and creative solutions to the work of the Research Strategy & Services Division and lead programmes of change that deliver service improvement to the Division and which supports the University's sustainability agenda through resource efficient working.
  2. Act as an ambassador for the University, upholding and promoting the University's values and interests and deputising as required for the Assistant Director (Research Strategy & Services).
  3. Develops and implements a culture (including policies and procedures) that promotes Equality and values diversity and inclusion.
  4. Any other duties commensurate with the grade, as required from time-to-time by the Assistant Director, (Research Strategy & Services).

Required Knowledge, Skills, Qualifications, Experience
  • Educated to Degree level (or equivalent level qualifications), or extensive experience of working in a complex organisation plus substantial relevant managerial experience.
  • Ability to exercise a substantial degree of independent professional responsibility and discretion.
  • Ability to lead and manage diverse groups of staff through intermediate managers.
  • A strong knowledge, and interest in, national and international research policy and operations.
  • Strong empathy for the academic endeavour at a research intensive university and the ability to develop strong partnerships with senior leadership across the institution.
  • Significant experience of providing senior practitioner support to complex issues relating to research contracts, research governance, research culture, and funders, being recognised as a trusted expert and developing individuals and teams to do the same.
  • Knowledge and experience of research funding and facilitation.
  • Significant experience of leading and/or co-ordinating large, strategic partnerships that involve universities, public sector bodies, policy organisations, and industry
  • Excellent literacy and numeracy, with the ability to write for different audiences and for different purposes, and to produce and analyse complex source material, information and data.
  • Actively promotes equality and diversity to internal and external stakeholders.
  • Able to use data to identify equality and diversity issues.
  • Experience of developing interventions to address equality and diversity issues

Role context

Roles at this level will be senior professionals with high-level expertise, exercising within their particular functional area/section a substantial degree of independent professional responsibility and discretion, including the development and implementation of policies and processes. You are expected to resolve problems where there is a lack of precedent, requiring innovation and creativity to develop appropriate options. You will be responsible for setting quality and professional standards and managing service. Your work has a medium to long term horizon and you will work with a variety of people from several teams. You will also be able to make a major contribution to the longer-term strategic planning for your area, in line with the wider University strategy.

Core competencies/transferable skills

Working at this level you will be able to develop and successfully demonstrate the core competencies/transferable skills outlined in each of the areas shown below. You will be expected to take ownership for getting things done, including calling on others to join you in collaborative working groups as necessary. You will need to be flexible in supporting your department and wider University.

Planning and organising
  • lead and manage a functional area, taking responsibility for staff and resources, tackling planning and operations over the medium to long term;
  • shape strategic direction for own area, and make significant contributions to departmental strategic planning;
  • set quality and professional standards for others;
  • take accountability for the quality and delivery of a service or for the provision of expert professional advice;
  • take the initiative and manage large-scale changes;
  • make decisions and judgements on conflicting data/information;
  • as appropriate, research and develop drafts of papers, taking account of the final audience, socialising ideas and seeking input and producing final drafts;
  • lead and manage projects which are complex and significant in terms of time and financial resources.

Problem solving and decision making
  • evaluate service provision and implement innovative solutions to improve quality, efficiency and continuity;
  • ensure effective resolution of all issues in own area, often requiring complex problem solving through others;
  • identify trends which could have an impact on the area, and identify and implement approaches to these trends;
  • deal effectively and sensitively with significant and substantial people management issues, such as major change programmes and lead staff through change whilst maintaining motivation.

Organisational understanding
  • quickly develop an in-depth understanding of their own area and an excellent understanding of the contribution other areas make to success of the University;
  • quickly develop an excellent understanding of how the University and academia operate in the UK (and beyond as appropriate);
  • demonstrate empathy with the academic endeavour and encourages others to do so.

Relationships and communication
  • interact effectively at senior levels within the University;
  • network with fellow professionals in the wider community to stay up to date;
  • promote own/department's work at internal and external opportunities;
  • inspire and motivate others (often large teams) through multiple intermediary managers;
  • provide expert input for internal/external meetings, influencing and facilitating different opinions to reach consensus;
  • consult with service users/others to establish service requirements, standards and priorities for change.

Informal inquiries can be directed to Xavier Rodde, Craig Maskell or Steve Taylor via Tracy Shepherd: t.shepherd@bham.ac.uk

View our staff values and behaviours here

Valuing excellence, sustaining investment

We value diversity and inclusion at the University of Birmingham and welcome applications from all sections of the community and are open to discussions around all forms of flexible working.

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