N8 Research Culture: Teams Build Dreams – The University of Manchester’s Team Research Programme


This blog was written by members of the Team Research Operations Team: Ruth Norris (Project Co-Lead), Charlotte Stockton-Powdrell (Project Co-Lead), Nicola Telfer (Program Manager), and Karon Mee (Project Coordinator) TROT@manchester.ac.uk

Climate change, disease prevention, tackling poverty: these are just some of the wicked problems that can’t be solved by lone geniuses in siloed research domains: these knotty, complex challenges need input from a variety of domains, bringing complementary expertise, perspectives, knowledge and skills.

To do this we need to work in TEAMS: across boundaries, disciplines, organisations and geographical areas. Here at the University of Manchester, we call this way of working Team Research. Our definition, created with and for our community is: 

a collaborative effort to address a common goal using the strengths and expertise of a diverse team where contributions of all team members are encouraged, acknowledged, recognised and valued.” 

We deliver a suite of training and development activities and resources to enable a collaboration-led research culture across the whole community of academics, researchers, technicians, professional services and citizen contributors. Our short animation gives an overview of the Teams Build Dreams approach: https://youtu.be/ttubzQhzA1U?si=w7O41rMTzeQbJH2F. 

Our programme, which is funded by the Research England Enhancing Research Culture scheme, fosters a collaborative research environment by championing teamwork principles; an approach that dismantles disciplinary silos and ignites innovation through interdisciplinary working.  

In this special blog for the N8 Research Partnership’s Research Culture campaign, we share how our vision, approach, and activities are supporting those seeking to harness the power of collaborative research.



Gaining Traction: Listening & Building Foundations 

Launched in early 2023, we began with a pilot phase with the Christabel Pankhurst Institute and the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre communities. Working with our community members, through awareness events, workshops and surveys, we listened to their experiences and built our understanding of current attitudes and experiences of working in teams. We explored the benefits, challenges, barriers and solutions to useful teaming.  

This was invaluable in understanding community needs and identified a pull from the community for ongoing efforts. to raise awareness and build capabilities, not only equipping researchers with the necessary knowledge and skills but also driving a cultural shift that embraces and celebrates collaborative research endeavours. 

Building a Multifaceted Suite 

Drawing on the insights gained from the pilot phase, the Team Research Programme developed a comprehensive programme that empowers staff and students from all backgrounds and disciplines to thrive in a collaborative environment: 

  • Training for All: A cornerstone of the Team Research Programme is our training suite. This suite caters for all: researchers at all stages of their careers, academics, professional services and technical specialists.  
  • Empowering with knowledge:  We understand that access to the right resources is crucial for successful research collaborations. To address this need, we curate a comprehensive online toolkit. This offers a diverse set of resources, to implement team research principles – from best practice for building effective research teams to practical tools for facilitating communication and collaboration across disciplines. 
  • Investing in Collaboration:  Recognising the importance of nurturing new connections, the Team Research Programme established a micro-catalyst funding scheme. This year, we have successfully funded six projects, each fostering novel ways of working to drive research collaborations and laying the groundwork for impactful discoveries.  
  • Fostering a Vibrant Community:  Building a strong, engaged community is central to our vision. We achieve this by giving invited talks and workshops across our community; and by hosting a series of bespoke events including awareness raising and networking, to provide opportunities to develop skills, expertise, connections, share ideas, and explore potential collaborations 

Better together! –  Sharing the Knowledge 

The Teams Build Dreams Team Research Programme is dedicated to knowledge sharing and collaborating. We are excited to share the resources we have developed, including: