Imperial research is best in UK, finds REF 2021 | Imperial News

A researcher using a pipette in a lab




Imperial has a greater proportion of world-leading research than any other UK university, according to the Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The results confirm Imperial’s status as a world-class research powerhouse. The College ranks top in the UK overall – with a greater proportion of 4* “world-leading” research than any other UK university. 

Imperial ranks first in the UK for research outputs, first in the UK for research environment, and first for research impact among Russell Group universities. 

Imperial is pushing the frontiers of knowledge to solve the problems of today and prepare for the challenges of tomorrow. Professor Alice Gast President of Imperial College London

The results reaffirm that Imperial is the best place in the UK for academics to pursue their research, with top results for its research environment. This achievement is the result of Imperial’s commitment to both discovery-led research and the translation of that work into tangible benefits for society. Imperial tops the board with the highest research impact of all Russell Group universities. 

The results are Imperial’s best-ever results in the UK’s research assessment exercise, showing improvements in every area of assessment. 

A researcher holds a beaker

Imperial’s President, Professor Alice Gast, said: “These are outstanding results for Imperial. They confirm our position as a world class research university, and are testament to the spirit of innovation, collaboration and internationalism that runs through everything we do. 

“Imperial is pushing the frontiers of knowledge to solve the problems of today and prepare for the challenges of tomorrow. Our response to COVID-19 emphasised the importance of our work, but our impact goes much further than the pandemic. Whether it is pioneering new treatments for diseases like Alzheimer’s, driving advances in AI and machine learning, or engineering the technologies we need for our future, our research is transforming lives across the UK, Europe and the wider world.  

“I am grateful for the tremendous efforts of our whole community. Every single member of staff at Imperial has contributed to this success from academics, postdocs and fellows, learning and teaching colleagues, to technical, operational and professional services.” 

“Tackling some of science’s deepest questions”

Provost Professor Ian Walmsley said: “Imperial is the best place in the UK for academics to pursue their research, and these REF results show that. We have created an environment that supports our researchers in tackling some of science’s deepest questions and some of society’s most urgent problems. Our research is stronger because of our collaborations – whether that’s across academic disciplines, institutions or international borders: we will always be a global institution.  

We have created an environment that supports our researchers in tackling some of science’s deepest questions and some of society’s most urgent problems. Professor Ian Walmsley Provost of Imperial College London

“Imperial is going from strength to strength. This excellent news about our research follows Imperial being named University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, this year’s University of the Year for Student Experience 2022 by the Good University Guide, our Queen’s Anniversary Prize for our COVID-19 response, and our highest-ever student satisfaction scores last year. This is because of the creativity and effort of the incredible people who drive and support our ambitious research agenda, and I am really proud of the Imperial community for this achievement.” 

Professor Mary Ryan, Interim Vice-Provost (Research and Enterprise), said: “Imperial is a place where innovation, creativity and collaboration co-exist and thrive. Our researchers tackle the biggest challenges like climate change, future energy supplies, antibiotic resistance and national security, and they know the importance of making the most of their breakthroughs to deliver new technologies across the globe, creating a better, more sustainable and healthier future. I am unbelievably proud to see our research excellence and commitment to impact confirmed by this outstanding set of REF results.” 

A woman receives a vaccine from a nurse

Imperial’s impact has been underlined during the pandemic, with the College’s researchers at the forefront of global efforts – modelling disease spread, pioneering the rapid development of new vaccine technology, and accelerating breakthrough treatments to help COVID-19 patients, resulting in a Queen’s Anniversary Prize. As we emerge from the pandemic, Imperial is driving forward major strategic initiatives, accelerating a transition to a zero-pollution future, using the latest advances in machine learning to tackle societal challenges, and finding new real-world applications for deep tech discoveries.

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