Get to Know: Director of Research and Innovation Services, Kerry Barber

Headshot of Kerry Barber

The University of Kent’s Research and Innovation Services (RIS) have had lots to celebrate this year. As a department dedicated to ensuring new research and knowledge exchange and innovation potential within the University is unlocked, we have played a key role in helping Kent to achieve world-leading and internationally excellent research, as recognised in the Research Excellence framework (REF) 2021 results, and sourced record amounts of innovation funding to continue to make a significant difference to lives and livelihoods regionally, nationally and internationally. As if that wasn’t enough, this month we’ve welcomed our new Director of RIS, Kerry Barber, who previously led operations for the Division of Human and Social Sciences. Here, we find out more about what Kerry is looking forward to in her role.

What attracted you to your new position as Director of RIS?

There were three elements that attracted me to the role. Firstly, I was excited by its external focus. My previous positions have included working for an educational research institute at Canterbury Christ Church University and the Canterbury Festival. Both were stimulating because delivery was heavily dependent on partnership working. Therefore, the opportunity to generate new, as well as cement existing, relationships with external partners was a major attraction. Secondly, good working relationships are important to me and the affiliation between RIS and the Divisions is particularly positive. Hence, I was motivated by the prospect of working collaboratively to ensure that research and innovation at Kent continues to grow. Finally, as this question itself makes clear, the role of Director of RIS is a new role. This presents an exciting opportunity to be curious and shape the position, which I am very enthusiastic about. Which is an excellent segue to the next question…

Is there an area of research and innovation at Kent you’re particularly excited about?

I have had so many thoughts racing around my head since I was offered the position. However, Kent’s REF success means that it is an incredibly exciting time to join the directorate. This success provides a fantastic platform to build upon with the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation (Shane Weller), colleagues across the RIS directorate, the academic Divisions, our Institutes, the Signature Research Themes and other key stakeholders such as the Graduate and Researcher College, Eastern ARC and the Research Support team in Information Services. Therefore, I am particularly excited at the prospect of working with colleagues across the research and innovation ecosystem at Kent in order to contribute to the strategic development of our culture and environment.

What opportunities do you see to enhance how we approach research and innovation here at Kent?

It is evident that there are opportunities in the area of knowledge exchange and innovation, especially given the UK government’s research and development priorities. Transformative work has already started: 2021-22 was Kent’s best-performing year in terms of innovation income, colleagues across the institution are working creatively to develop new and more meaningful partnerships and within the directorate the role of Business Relationships Officer has been established as an embedded role in each of the Divisions. I’m therefore very much looking forward to working with colleagues to enhance our work with businesses and other external partners to build on our successes to date.

Before working at Kent, you were a Business Manager for the Canterbury Festival. Did you meet anyone famous during that time?

Yes! Lots of well-known faces performed at the Festival during my time in the role – Sean Lock (RIP), Jon Richardson, Marcus Brigstocke, Dominic West, Kevin McCloud, Andrew Graham-Dixon and so the list goes on. My most vivid memory is hosting an event by the architectural writer and broadcaster Lucinda Lambton. She delivered a fascinating talk about St Mary’s doll house, a work of art created in 1922 by 700+ artists. Unfortunately, she experienced terrible technical problems – something we’re all very familiar with – and, despite our best efforts, there was little that we could do to help. Thankfully she soldiered on valiantly and was really quite forgiving when I spoke to her at the end. It was such a relief!

You were kind enough to host afternoon tea for your RIS colleagues in your first week. If you could have afternoon tea with anyone, who would it be?

Indeed – it was a great way to meet my new colleagues and I’m grateful for the warm welcome that I have received.

I would happily host afternoon tea for anyone who has shown resilience and determination in the face of adversity. For instance, I’d love to share a cup of tea with Marie Curie – she was a remarkable woman. But until time travel is invented, I’ll opt for Jack Monroe, the food writer, journalist, and campaigner. I became aware of her during the early stages of the pandemic when she ran an amazing lockdown larder campaign on Twitter. Since then, I’ve become familiar with her campaigning work on poverty and hunger relief. It is truly inspiring and I’d love to chat to her about her recent work.

Bonus question – what cake would you choose to share?

Gosh, that would be a tough choice given that Jack is so creative in the kitchen. In light of her campaigning work, I think I would make a donation to the Trussell Trust instead!

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