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Postgraduates head to Kyoto for researcher development programme

Participants at the Bristol RENKEI summer school

Participants at the Bristol RENKEI summer school

25 November 2013

Staff and postgraduates from Bristol and other UK universities will travel to Kyoto University in December to take part in the concluding sessions of an international skills development programme for early-career researchers.

Two Bristol postgraduates – Janine Sargoni (a PhD student in socio-legal research) and Dominic Hayward (a PhD student in functional nanomaterials) – are participating in the programme, which is the first project to be launched by RENKEI, a collaborative network supported by the British Council in Japan and involving 11 institutions in Japan and the UK.

The aims of the programme are to:

  • develop future research leaders with the skills to lead collaborations between different disciplines and cultures (including those between academic and industrial cultures);
  • facilitate the formation of active collaborations to achieve a tangible outcome;
  • develop a sustainable network of researchers across Japan and the UK.

The first part of the programme (whose theme is ‘Urban Sustainability and Resilience’) was held in July, when the University of Bristol hosted 22 early-career researchers from the participating institutions on a two-week summer school. Dr Alison Leggett and her team in Academic Staff Development at Bristol worked with two colleagues from Newcastle University to design and deliver the sessions. These included addresses by speakers including the Mayor of Bristol and Herbert Girardet (co-founder of the World Future Council), and workshops on collaboration with industry, communication across cultures, teamworking, creativity and the entrepreneurial mindset.

After taking part in a World Café in which they generated ideas for projects concerning urban sustainability, participants formed small cross-cultural teams, each working on one of the ideas for a presentation in Kyoto, when they will get feedback from academics and guests from industry.

Participants will encounter the urban sustainability theme from a Japanese perspective in December, and will work on new ideas generated whilst in Kyoto before giving a final presentation.

PhD student Janine Sargoni said: ‘I’m particularly excited about the Kyoto leg of RENKEI. I’m hoping to gain a deeper understanding of how my own culture is perceived, and how our differences are accommodated, in Japan. I am eager to understand how urban resilience is manifest in Japanese cities.’

Professor Guy Orpen, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, said: ‘The first phase of the RENKEI School in Bristol was remarkable for the enthusiasm of the participants and the obvious and rapid development of the teams they formed. The next part in Kyoto promises similar excitement and tremendous benefits to all involved.’

More information about RENKEI is available at


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