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Thomas Ashton Institute for Risk and Regulatory Research

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Building a Secure And Resilient World: Research and Coordination Hub (SALIENT)

Led by Dr Richard Kirkham, Deputy Director of the Thomas Ashton Institute for Risk and Regulatory Research, the programme brings University of Manchester academics together with partners from the universities of Bath, Exeter, and Sussex, to catalyse, convene and conduct research and innovation in support of the UK's national security and resilience.

standard UKRI logo in blue and white

This ambitious five-year investment, funded by the UK Research and Innovation’s building a secure and resilient world strategic theme, will enable the SALIENT team to build strong connections across a broad group of stakeholders in central and local government, the devolved administrations and crucially, the public.

Scope and Vision

SALIENT will drive interdisciplinary research to tackle some of the UK's most challenging security problems. Their focus will be on robust and secure supply chains, global order in a time of change, technologies used for security and defence, behavioural and cultural resilience, and strengthening resilience in our natural and built environments.


SALIENT aims to:

  • Enhance security across our virtual and physical environments;
  • Strengthen the country’s societal and economic resilience, by improving awareness around the key risks and threats we might be facing;
  • Informing UK decision-making and preparedness.

Our approach will promote a culture of genuine interdisciplinarity, co-production and citizen engagement, ensuring that the research we do is relevant, timely and represents value for money.
Ultimately, we’re working towards change being understood as a force for good

Dr Richard Kirkham / Principal Investigator


The geopolitical and geo-economic shifts that we are experiencing have stress-tested the national security and resilience of the United Kingdom. The consequences of EU Exit, COVID-19, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and other events of national importance, have coalesced around three global challenges that will shape the future direction of our economy and society; energy security, climate change and cyber security.

Our world is characterised by high degrees of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA); this context means that emergencies will be much greater in frequency and are likely to have far reaching consequences for our national economy. Therefore, it is essential UK adopts a sophisticated and nuanced approach to our understanding and communication of risk.

If we are to enhance resilience and security through improved risk management, it follows that the doctrine of ‘prevention rather than cure’ should guide policy wherever possible. However, the intractable problem of recognising and quantifying the value of good risk management is omnipresent. We believe that risk management is the antecedent to a robust resilience system; it is the glue which connects central government, the devolved administrations, local authorities, and the private and third sectors.

Risk intelligence is crucial to effective decision-making, this is particularly important in the context of emergency and crisis situations that require government to adopt a radically different ‘operating rhythm’ and where decisions and actions occur at pace. In response, the ‘Government Risk Profession’ was launched in 2021 to advance professionalism, effectiveness and efficiency in the way risk is managed.

It is clear that a socio-technical systems approach that recognises resilience as an interacting set of sub-systems at both social and technical levels is crucial to adopting a human-centred approach that aligns will the Integrated Reviews' recognition of the ‘professionalism and commitment of the people who contribute to our resilience.’

SALIENT will adopt a human-centred systems approach through a portfolio of devolved funded activity. To achieve this, we particularly encourage research proposals that promote the arts and humanities in the national conversation on resilience.

Dr Richard Kirkham / Principal Investigator

Our work

SALIENT will focus the UK’s research effort on national resilience through the lens of human centred systems-thinking. Our five-year programme of research will deliver a portfolio of evidence and insight to support central and local governmental actions and ultimately strengthen the UK’s resilience to civil contingencies and threats.

Our human-centred approach, informed by a distinctly anthropological perspective, will enable SALIENT to identify and articulate the systemic changes that are needed to strengthen resilience. We know that resilience requires a ‘whole of society’ mindset; this means organising our social order and government in ways that enhances transparency, leadership and promotes greater accountability.

The mere notion of a resilience focused outlook requires consideration of how we use 'futures' to engage citizens in ways that empower their communities.

SALIENT will provide the means to coordinate research actions across a broad spectrum of disciplines and sectors and deliver evidence that will shape the UK’s response to the increasingly complex threat landscape.

Work Packages

SALIENT research will be driven by six clearly defined work-packages; five will focus research on the Building a Secure and Resilient World (BSRW) BSRW priority themes, with a crosscutting Leadership and governance work package that will provide the co-ordination and central oversight of SALIENT activity, including the devolved funding portfolio:

  • SALIENT Leadership and governance – Richard Kirkham, Connie Smith, Maya Vachkova
  • Global order in a time of change – Paul Nightingale and Maya Vachkova
  • Technologies for resilient security and defence – Richard Kirkham, Duncan Shaw, and Mark Elliot
  • Resilient and secure supply chains – Michael Lewis
  • Behavioural and cultural resilience – Sharon Clarke and Connie Smith
  • Strengthening resilience in natural and built environment – Philipp Thies and James Evans.

The SALIENT Research Programme

We anticipate 50-70 projects with at least ten per work-package in five rounds of funding.

Each round will last for ten months, and commissioned projects will last between six and nine months. All applicants will be expected to show how their studies will align with the continuation strategy.

We will fund three types of projects:

  • Theoretically motivated projects (e.g. research that draws upon theory as the basis for enquiry, or as a means of researching a question, position, or relationship).
  • Empirically derived projects (e.g. research that is based on measurement and observation of real-world phenomena).
  • A distinct stream of Early Career Researcher (ECR) led projects (applicants may locate their proposals in either of the two modes described above), as a means of promoting development and community building for new scholars.

Funding calls will be released throughout the length of the project, so please check the site regularly.


SALIENT partners including government departments, arms-length bodies, STEM futures systems thinking and reliability hubs
SALIENT partners including government departments, arms-length bodies, STEM futures systems thinking and reliability hubs

Programme team

The challenges we have identified transcend the engineering, physical and social sciences and cannot be addressed in the absence of a genuinely inter-disciplinary approach. The research team reflects the interdisciplinary challenge.