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The University of Southampton
Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute

Seeding new initiatives - SMMI sponsors Boldrewood Lunchtime Seminars

Published: 19 March 2020
SMMI lunchtime seminar

Pushing forward new initiatives is often a juggling act that involves having ideas, dedicating effort and getting financial support. Since there is no guarantee that time and money invested will lead to worthwhile gains, there often comes a point when we need to find groups of people who are willing to take a small synchronized leap of faith together. The Boldrewood lunchtime seminar is an example of a recent initiative where these elements all came together.

The spectacular new National Infrastructure Laboratory had just been completed and the Boldrewood Innovation Campus was set to double its daytime population pretty much overnight.

The “idea” behind starting a weekly lunchtime seminar series was simple; encourage people who would otherwise be trapped behind their desks or stuck in their offices to get to know their neighbours and what they are up to.

The “support” comes from the SMMI (Southampton Marine & Maritime Institute) who provide enough warm pizza to motivate omnivores, vegetarians and vegans to gather in one place and fuel their discussions, and the Maritime Engineering group who provide caffeinated and decaffeinated drinks that further impassion the exchange of ideas.

Part of the “effort” comes from a small team of organisers led by Dr Miquel Massot Campos and Dr Subhra Kanti Das, who chase and remind both seminar speakers and pizza delivery staff and log seminar statistics. The other part of the “effort” comes from the community that provides content and engages in what has become a vibrant and exciting part of campus culture that is now firmly embedded at Boldrewood.

The format of the seminars is simple, every Monday we gather at 12:00, eat pizza, drink tea and coffee, and to listen to a series of short 7 min talks given by people linked our campus. We carry out quick audience surveys to share and discuss our views on topics ranging from catering to research ethics. The assortment of disciplines and backgrounds that gather always guarantees a rich exchange of ideas in the wake of each talk, with occasional crowds forming around coffee dispensers for impromptu demonstrations using personal mugs, hand towels and empty pizza cartons. 45 minutes after the start, people are back behind their desks doing whatever was making them busy before the seminar.

Since kicking off in July 2019 we have held 72 talks, 80% of which have been given by self-proclaimed early career researchers. These have been delivered to an average of 53 academics, researchers and technical staff who have attended the seminar each week. This has resulted in approximately 1200 person hours of direct research interaction, fuelled by 360 L-size pizzas. The seminars typically introduce research, facilities, and disseminate new initiatives at the university, helping members of our community prepare for conferences, thesis defenses and funding pitches. The seminars equally form a platform to host external guest speakers, and build collaborative networks, where one of these networks formed part of the recently launched FEPS In situ and Remote Intelligent Sensing Centre of Excellence.

For many, the key question will be is the cost and effort invested in these lunchtime seminars worth it? The best way to find out is to come along and see for yourself!


SMMI lunchtime seminar
Weekly attendance since July 2019
SMMI lunchtime seminar
Speakers so far (total 74)
SMMI lunchtime seminar
Software development and use
SMMI lunchtime seminar
Example question of the day responses
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