Get involved

We connect academics, non-government organisations (NGOs), charities, community organisations, local authorities and businesses.  

You can get involved through:

Contact us

Email us to find out how you can get involved

Headline theme

We invite members of the University of Leeds community to collaborate on a specific theme with a global resonance that we refresh every two years. Our current headline theme is ‘What comes after the UN Sustainable Development Goals?’  

Our headline theme is used to underpin opportunities for open intellectual engagement in curated environments such as guest lectures, workshop series and collaborative labs – offering researchers space and time to develop new thinking and collaborations.  

This programme will launch in Spring/Summer 2023. For more information, visit our Headline Theme page

Challenge themes

Our Challenge Theme Networks are open to University of Leeds colleagues, with these networks working collaboratively with policymakers, non-profit organisations, charities, businesses and the public to address pressing challenges. 

Together with partners, we aim to address specific societal, scientific or technological challenges of global significance. We believe having diverse inputs and perspectives will help us to identify the most important challenges and create robust engagement strategies. 

Set up by University of Leeds researchers with support from the Horizons Institute, the Challenge themes aim to establish thriving interdisciplinary networks that: 

  • bring researchers together from across the University to collaborate in the development of ideas.
  • share understanding, evidence-based knowledge and data.
  • build and strengthen capacity in 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. 

Our opportunities are a mix of face-to-face and online activities. Several challenge themes will run at the same time, with a duration of two semesters each. 

You can join our existing Challenge Theme networks, or get help in setting up a new one. We currently have ten groups applying to become an interdisciplinary research network at the University. To find out more about the ideas being put forward for these networks, visit our build a research network page. 

Our current Challenge Theme networks:

Mental health

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 hope 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 our Leeds Interdisciplinary Mental Health Research Network website.

Physical activity and movement

Our Interdisciplinary Movement and Physical Activity Research network 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 our InterActive UoL website.

Antimicrobial resistance

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 our Antimicrobial resistance website.


Space is one of the UK’s fastest growing sectors, trebling in size since 2010, employing over 42,000 people and generating income of over £14.8 billion each year. (UK Government). The space sector covers areas including:

  • space exploration
  • earth observation
  • space instrumentation design
  • planetary science
  • telecommunications
  • data science.

The sector underpins critical responses to climate change and other strategic global social, economic and environmental challenges.

Despite this growth, a UK Space Agency report published in 2021 highlighted a severe skills shortage, which risks missed scientific insights and slow adoption of emerging technology.  

The Space at Leeds Horizons Network sparks new research collaborations between diverse disciplines and industry, but also to help develop a skilled workforce to support the sector’s growth. 

Our aims include:

  • increasing academic collaboration between disciplines at the University of Leeds, including those outside of traditional STEM subjects, such as business, media, communication, law, ethics, intellectual property, entrepreneurship
  • working with industry to develop solutions that meet their business needs, including setting up a knowledge translation programme between academics and industry partners, using the Space Innovation Lab in the Nexus building
  • enhancing the space curriculum, careers support and graduate opportunities for University of Leeds students
  • leading outreach in local schools
  • connecting space research with funding opportunities.

We work closely with Leeds City Enterprise Region Partnership (LEP) and align our activities with our parent organisation Space Hub Yorkshire, a wider regional partnership supporting the growth of the UK’s space industry that includes four LEPs and 12 universities.

Open to: University of Leeds academics and businesses.

Get involved: email

If you are a University of Leeds member of staff working in a space-related field, you can also contact us using this form to join Space@Leeds on Microsoft Teams.

Challenge Themes receive one year of support from the Horizons Institute. Each academic year, we will support new Challenge Themes through a fair and transparent process. Our 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. 

Global Academy

Open to early career research leaders at Leeds and around the world.

Our Global Academy provides an arena for early and mid-career researchers around the world to come together to develop skills, ideas and network. 

We provide the time and space for you to think, enquire and explore. Our pathway of opportunities will support you to implement bold, new approaches to global challenges and become tomorrow’s leaders in interdisciplinary research.

Our Global Academy may be suitable for you, if you:

  • are new to interdisciplinarity and would like to develop these skills 
  • have some experience but would like to do more and meet researchers from other disciplines
  • would like to explore methods that can be applied differently to answer challenges
  • would like to build networks across sectors
  • are interested in applying your skills to get involved in our themes
  • are keen to develop your interdisciplinary learning and teaching materials.


We offer insight sessions, mentoring, coffee mornings and talks from key external guest speakers who will share their stories and experiences of tackling a research problem. We also run a Methods series and a Crucible programme.

Methods series

Collaboration between different disciplines can be challenging. Our Methods sessions are an opportunity to share methods and explain our data to help understand where genuine interaction can occur. 

Crucible programme

The Crucible programme is aimed at researchers and innovators from different disciplines who can commit to spending six days in a year building a network, developing interdisciplinary skills and approaches and using these to solve challenges that affect us all. We meet three times over the course of six months, help you develop an external profile, understand what it means to be interdisciplinary and see how ideas can progress along the innovation pipeline.

Watch a video about an interdisciplinary collaboration formed by researchers who met at the Crucible programme:

Video transcript: Time and Space - The Story of a Successful Collaboration

Exchange and Innovation Fellowships

The Academy will also provide Exchange and Innovation Fellowships, offering you the chance to spend time in another researcher’s university, immerse yourself in different cultures – both academically and geographically – and develop projects together.

I have learnt what my skills and talents are and how I can put them forward. I was reassured that creativity and multidisciplinary work can be rewarded highly in academia.

Crucible participant

Thank you to David Fine and Peter Gray for the donation in support of the Global Academy programme.

Partnerships for societal impact and innovation

Are you interested in starting a conversation about the issues that are on your mind? At the Horizons Institute, we create a space to discuss your perspectives and ideas with academics, so that together, we can create co-produce research projects with impact.

Leeds 2023

We are working with Leeds 2023 to pair internationally-based artists with researchers from the University of Leeds for a project called For The Public Good. 

Working with the Horizons Institute has already been an incredible experience for LEEDS 2023. Bringing together people from many walks of life is key to making sure academia, art and culture are relevant and useful for the communities we serve.

The projects we’re developing together as part of the Year of Culture will make sure our work is grounded in lived and learned experience.

Emma Beverley, Executive Producer, Leeds 2023

Yorkshire and Humber Policy Engagement Research Network (Y-PERN)

Y-PERN is a network of Yorkshire Universities and Yorkshire and Humber Councils working together to support inclusive, research-informed regional development policy and strategy. 

Working with Policy Leeds, we are helping the core team at Y-PERN build their network of Leeds researchers.