Challenge Theme Networks

We support colleagues from across the University of Leeds to develop and establish multiple Challenge Theme Networks each year.  

These networks collaborate with an interdisciplinary array of researchers and professional service colleagues, within and external to the University of Leeds, as well as policymakers, non-profit organisations, charities, businesses and the public to address pressing challenges.  

We help the networks in their aims to address specific societal, scientific or technological challenges of global significance. Having diverse inputs and perspectives helps us identify the most important challenges, and create robust engagement strategies.  

Challenge networks aim to: 

  • bring researchers/colleagues together from across the University of Leeds and beyond to collaborate in the development of ideas. 
  • share understanding, evidence-based knowledge and data. 
  • build and strengthen interdisciplinary skills and leadership. 
  • strengthen their research impact by increasing its influence in local, national and global policy development. 
  • communicate the depth and breadth of their research to local, national, and global audiences.  

Each network will work in a way best suited to the membership and the nature of the challenge it is looking to address, which means the type of engagement opportunities offered will vary.  

Establish your own challenge network

Applications are now open for the Horizons Institute Challenge Network development programme 2024/25. 

For more information on criteria and the application process, please visit our Build a Research Network page

Join a challenge network 

You can join our existing Challenge Theme networks or get help in setting up a new one.  

Applications for support in setting up a new challenge network opens in the spring each year. This support includes helping to identify potential partners, facilitating collaborative working, communications guidance and helping to shape an interdisciplinary research agenda, external engagement and societal impact. 

Our Challenge Theme Networks are:  

Reimagining Ageing

Network Leads: Dr Sarah Astill, Professor Anne Forster, Dr Maria Kapsali​​​​​​

Reimagining Ageing aims to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration to develop novel, imaginative solutions to the global challenge of healthy ageing, with a focus on reducing inequalities in later life. 

The focus for the Network is centred around the ideal view of ageing — How would we like to age? What information is needed to inform creation of a better, and more enjoyable, environment in which to grow old? What can we do to support this vision? 

The network draws on established research from across disciplines at University of Leeds to address the opportunities for ageing, encouraging further interdisciplinary collaboration and engaging with a range of underserved communities. 

Visit the Reimagine Ageing website or email the Reimagine Ageing team at reimaginingageing@leeds.ac.uk 

Remaking Places: an interdisciplinary network for safe and thriving places

Network leads: Dr Radhika Borde, Professor Paul Chatterton, Dr Helen GrahamDr Katy Wright

Remaking Places is a network which supports place-based coalitions to radically reimagine, rethink, learn, act upon, and make practical interventions to build thriving, hopeful, joyful, safe, resilient places. 

Drawing on research from across University of Leeds on place and the urgent challenges that arise from the triple emergencies (climate, nature, social) the Remaking Places network seeks to catalyse research from across faculties into a transformational force, able to activate new ways of knowing into radical experimentation and action. 

Remaking is urgent. Emergencies of climate, growth, nature loss, resource use, poverty, inequality, cost of living, global pandemics are converging and accelerating. It is also complex: a constant process of change and contestation.  

In the face of these emergencies, Remaking Places requires disruptive and transdisciplinary teams that can draw on ideas such as doughnut, foundational and diverse economies; community ownership and wealth building; post-growth and post-carbon places; climate justice; just transitions; decolonization; inter-species ethics; rewilding; and nature-based solutions. 

Remaking also requires a shift in the way we work and organize — investing in horizontality, inter-generationality, co-production, hope, imagination, openness, sharing, commons, abundance, and lived experience. 

Visit the Remaking Places website or email the Remaking Places team at remakingplaces@leeds.ac.uk 

The Interdisciplinary Network for Time

Network leads: Professor Tim Heaton, Professor Kahryn Hughes, Dr Chris Birchall 

Time plays a fundamental role in our lives, spanning the deepest mysteries of the natural world, the formation of our societal and individual belief systems, and the basis for decisions we take for the future. But time is usually in the background of research. This research network will make intellectual leaps in a number of disciplines by moving it to the foreground. 

Different to most research networks and centres, this network is not attempting to resolve one problem, but instead is focused on fundamental knowledge creation, using interdisciplinary approaches with potential application to many of today’s challenges. 

The network takes three global challenges — climate change; social inequity; and productivity — to generate ideas for research questions. Applied to each theme, time presents novel and interesting research questions. When considered in the light of “alternative” disciplines for the global challenge, intellectual boundaries can be pushed yet further. 

This unique network will confront and blend viewpoints of physicists, astronomers, geologists, psychologists, social scientists, historians, prehistorians, artists, economists, philosophers, the community, organisations, and policy makers. 

Visit the Interdisciplinary Network for Time website, or email the Interdisciplinary Network for Time team at networkfortime@leeds.ac.uk

Global Biosphere Sensing Network

Network leads: Dr Ryan Neely III, Dr David Williams, Dr Simon Goodman 

New technology is needed urgently to address the interconnected global challenges of biodiversity loss, emerging pathogens, and sustainable agriculture. 

Real-time biosensor networks return information about the status and stresses of ecosystems or detect and monitor pathogens in the environment. In the same way global weather and climate observing networks revolutionised understanding of the physical environment, deployment of biosensing networks will fundamentally change how we collect information about the living world and make environmental policy decisions. 

At the same time, global collection of bio-monitoring data creates unprecedented ethical challenges around surveillance, and equitable information access. 

Such advances are coming in the next decade, and this network will harness this early opportunity to lead that agenda, building internal networks to unite dispersed activity across the University and make new relationships with external technology users and policymakers. 

The network will incorporate postgrads, professional staff, technicians and academics, and aims to host seminars and workshops, generate synthesis reviews, and conduct outreach to the public, data and service users, and policymakers. 

Email the Global Biosphere Sensing team at biospheresensing@leeds.ac.uk

Previous Challenge Theme networks 

There are also a number of past Challenge Networks that now operate successfully and independently from the Horizons Institute, having come to the end of their year of formal support. Please find more information about these networks, and how you get involved, in the following sections.

Leeds Interdisciplinary Mental Health Research Network (LIMHRN)

Mental health problems are a major contributor to death, disease and disability worldwide and are predicted to be the leading cause by 2030. (World Health Organisation) 

In the Leeds Interdisciplinary Mental Health Research Network, we take a multidisciplinary approach to tackling the many complex factors that: 

  • affect mental health 
  • cause mental health disorders 
  • lead to inequalities in prevalence, access to support and outcomes.  

These include individual, social, cultural, economic, political and environmental factors such as national policies, social protection, standards of living, working conditions and community support.  

We focus particularly on the relationship between mental health and: 

  • social inequalities 
  • adolescence 
  • employment  
  • the outdoors 
  • digital inequalities. 

We work to foster a wide perspective on mental health that includes prevention, support and treatment and will consider both clinical and social approaches.  

Open to academics, clinical, charity, business, members of the public.  

Get involved: visit the Leeds Interdisciplinary Mental Health Research Network website, or follow LIMHRN on X 

Physical activity and movement

Our Interdisciplinary Movement and Physical Activity Research network, InterActiveUoL, brings together academics and external stakeholders from around the world to tackle some of the biggest health challenges of our time. 

We adopt an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on our expertise in areas such as medicine, engineering, arts and culture, environment and biology. Together, we identify interconnected factors and address complex issues and that can help people prevent disease and disability, enhance health and wellbeing and adopt and maintain physically active lifestyles. 

Our network focuses particularly on areas including: 

  • healthy ageing 
  • rehabilitation and prevention 
  • health technologies 
  • behaviour change and wellbeing. 

The network also aims to enrich the student experience by engaging students in research-based teaching on movement, physical activity and exercise. 

Joining the network provides opportunities to influence and take part in research, foster connections and share ideas across disciplinary boundaries, drive policy change and be at the forefront of research and innovation. 

Open to researchers, clinicians, charities, policy makers, businesses, and members of the public. 

Get involved: visit the InterActiveUoL website, or follow InterActiveUoL on X 

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

Antimicrobial agents, such as antibiotics, are the main way of treating infectious diseases in humans and animals. Overuse and misuse of these drugs means they are rapidly becoming less effective, as microbes evolve to resist their effects; a phenomenon referred to as antimicrobial resistance or AMR. If we do nothing, by 2050, AMR is estimated to cause more human deaths than cancer and diabetes combined. 

Our AMR network brings together researchers from a wide range of disciplines to consider all components of this dynamic problem, from preventing infection and developing new treatments, to use of antibiotics in farming and behaviour change. 

Open to: University of Leeds researchers. 

Get involved: visit the Antimicrobial resistance website, or follow AMR@Leeds on X.

 For more information on any of these networks please email the Horizons team on horizons@leeds.ac.uk.