Our Vision

DIRDI’s Five Principal Objectives are:

  1. To achieve “Newtonian Discovery”: fundamental research into the physical laws of the Universe, for the benefit of humankind
  2. To achieve “Edisonian Commercialisation”: applied research in acoustics, electromagnetism, and information engineering, enabling technological diversification, the proceeds from which will fund Objective 1
  3. To identify the “United Kingdom’s Next Newton” (whomever they may be)
  4. To create an environment at Durham University where future Nobel Prize Winners of Science may be identified early-stage in their undergraduate academic careers and nurtured through their postgraduate, post-doctoral, Associate Professor and Professorial careers. In time we may grow this into a national network of top Universities.
  5. To provide a gateway into academic research at Durham University for local people with inventions and inventive ideas, across the Northeast, so that their inventive ideas can be sifted, selected, realised and used to generate “economic hope” for many where there is currently so little for so few. In time we may also grow this nationally, since our belief is that inventive thought exists within everyone.

Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter OBE, DIRDI Director-General

‘The freedom to experiment and think without constraint nor fear of failure is fundamental to the successful conduct of scientific research to a level that benefits civilisation. By definition, world-changing innovation is achieved by applying intelligent thought to a subject in a way that is novel, rather than through pursuing prescribed processes.

Bureaucracy and controls are often great inhibitors upon this research; at best they are aids to incremental scientific advance, while at worst they encourage the production of research that strives merely to be “publishable”. The process of grant funding replicates our institutional academic approach to publication: more oriented to the individual than the team and with “stop” points embedded in the peer-review process that inhibit discovery and research success. The system runs its people, generating a quest for funding in research that constricts research lines to those that offer the perceived highest probabilities of success.

We intend to bypass this. Our Institute must value the freedom to discover over a quest for funding and utilise its commercialisation component instead. In generating a reputation for unconstricted discovery we will become funded by those who share our vision in any case. DARPA in the USA was funded with several million dollars but has delivered trillions of dollars in scientific discovery in the internet, stealth technology, micro-electronics in computing, advanced radar, GPS data links, and electro-optical and infrared sensors.

We must create the freedom to occasionally fail alongside the consistency of success, whilst offsetting the cost. The way to do that is to support R&D lines that have rapid commercialisation prospects so that we balance the statistical probability of failure in “discovery” with the likelihood of success in “commercialisation”. To encourage the sort of blue-skies thinking required bureaucratically is something very difficult to achieve. It is also important not to pigeon-hole oneself into one application if another more promising one arises, but this method of financing will ensure that DIRDI can undertake research unfettered by conventional means of financing research.’