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DELIVERING WITH BUSINESS Harnessing world-class knowledge for growth and prosperity


Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

DELIVERING WITH BUSINESS Harnessing world-class knowledge for growth and prosperity


of the total research portfolio directly relevant to industry


of EPSRC’s investment in research and training carried out in collaboration with industry


investment of £3.2 billion in collaborative projects attracts a further £700 million from industry


collaborators from companies and over 100 public bodies


of our 9500 postgraduate students working with industry

“I want to lay down a challenge to the science and business communities….. That we come together, work together and plan a future together that makes the most of this country’s competitive advantages in financially difficult circumstances for the benefit of us all.” — Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business Innovation & Skills EPSRC supports the research and funding vital for innovation, skills and growth. Our flexible funding processes enable universities to collaborate with partners from industry on projects of mutual benefit or allow companies access to the skills provided by our postgraduate training. We work with business to ensure that the outputs from our funding are fully exploited and that our future policy is informed by business needs. Since 2006 we have invested in more than 6000 research projects totalling £3.2 billion. 40% of those grants are collaborative with industry who are adding a further £700 million to our investment. We support 9500 postgraduate students, 30% of that training is collaborative with 1000 partners from industry and other users.

Key drivers In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive Index, we’ve fallen from 4th to 12th. …. Manufacturing has halved as a share of our economy and 50% of all manufacturing jobs have been lost. Our share of world exports has fallen from 4.4% in 2000 to 2.8% in 2009. These trends are not inevitable for an advanced

Number of grants

Total value £ millions

Aerospace, Defence and Marine



Chemicals, Bulk Products and Materials



Creative Industries



Electronics, Communications and IT









Infrastructure and Environment



Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology



Transport Systems and Vehicles




economy: look at Germany whose share of world exports was 9% in 2009 compared with 8.5% in 2000. The consequence of this failure over the last decade to confront the causes of our relative economic decline is clear. Our economy has become more and more unbalanced. “Plan for Growth” HM Treasury/BIS March 2011 The Government recognises that the UK’s economic performance has slipped over recent years. Recovery will need the kind of research supported by EPSRC. However, innovation can only be harnessed to create the growth and new jobs if researchers are able to collaborate effectively with industry. EPSRC fosters collaborations by bringing together academic researchers with industry. We also involve business in our policy making.

Why should business work with universities Our research has the potential to be turned into new products and processes Collaboration with business is essential to convert this knowledge into the economic growth on which the UK’s prosperity depends. Universities are also a repository of knowledge and expertise on which business can draw to solve its long-term research issues.






















“The partnership (with EPSRC) has given us the ability to develop a strategic approach to our research programme, as well as find out how we can get more value for money, and has increased the profile of running research in the UK. This has allowed us to get more support from our US based managers and increased the credibility of UK based research. We have greatly expanded the amount and quality of research we have been able to support thanks to the help from our EPSRC partners.” — David York, Procter & Gamble The role of EPSRC We are the primary agency investing in research and training in engineering and the physical sciences. We are unique in the UK innovation landscape, supporting academic research focused on discovery and understanding. Through our close partnership with other bodies such as the Technology Strategy Board, we integrate this knowledge across the innovation landscape. (See Figure 1) Innovative businesses require highlyskilled, intellectually-flexible employees. Our provision of doctoral-level training provides such individuals. In partnership with industry, we create and support training schemes that encourage creativity, independent thinking, and effective problem-solving.

Why should business work with EPSRC?

Knowledge Transfer (KT): To contribute to economic growth the results of EPSRC investments need to be exploited. We enable this through partnerships and staff exchanges with companies. For example, Caledonian Alloys Ltd which specialises in the recycling of super alloys, collaborated in a PhD project with Heriot-Watt University. building on expertise at the university the student supported by the grant developed an optimised logistics process that was used by the company resulting in a net operating profit increase of £6 million per annum. Postgraduate training: Our training awards enable direct collaboration Discover

Research collaboration: We give grants to universities to support research companies with long term challenges collaborate on these projects. EPSRC supports the academic partner, the company contributes to the cost in cash and kind and the results are exploited by mutual agreement between the university and the company.



Product programmes

We also need to understand business in order to develop policies that connect business with academia and ensure the outputs of research and training are exploited.

How can business work with us?


There are also opportunities for exchanges between established industrial and academic researchers through many of the activities we sponsor.


There is mutual benefit to EPSRC and business working together because we are unique in our understanding of the UK’s research and training landscape. We can help companies find potential partners in universities and provide opportunities to enable companies to partner with the very best academic groups in research and training projects to their mutual benefit.

For example our long-standing relationship with P&G has increased their understanding of the UK research landscape. We have jointly supported research projects which have led to the company taking a more strategic approach to collaboration.


with companies. Companies can collaborate by sponsoring individual students and projects or collaborating in our Industrial Doctorate Centres. These provide an industry-focussed alternative to postgraduate training with students spending 75% of their time working directly with the company.

Figure 1

For the future • Providing better access to our research and training portfolio Although information is publicly available we are working to make it easier for companies to understand EPSRC’s portfolio and identify relevant research projects, training centres and research groups who may be suitable partners. • Better engagement with SMEs There are already around 1000 SMEs collaborating on grants. We want to extend this by engaging with SMEs who are not already collaborating: We will do this through disseminating information on opportunities through intermediaries such as Knowledge Transfer Networks and Trade Associations. • Exploring cross-cutting research and training needs Many of the longterm needs of business are common to a sector or cut across more than one sector, many companies work across sectors, innovations often occur at boundaries, and new sectors can emerge. We will identify cross-cutting themes where we can work with multiple businesses.


Exploiting the knowledge base EPSRC investment creates a pool of knowledge and expertise in UK universities which companies can draw on to meet their strategic goals. SPI Lasers based in Southampton were able to draw on the expertise of the University of Cambridge Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre in order to develop the products, expertise and credibility to break into a new market. Initially developing low-powered fibre lasers for the telecommunications market, the company needed to change direction following the collapse of the telecommunications industry. Working with the IMRC has enabled it to become the number two player in the global fibre laser market, with a turnover in excess of £14 million last year. Dr Malcolm Varnham, Vice President of Intellectual Property at SPI Lasers comments: “The collaboration with the Cambridge IMRC through Dr Bill O’Neill was important in driving forward product development and vital in helping us to establish credibility and presence in a completely different market place to where we started.”


Providing the workforce of the future For the UK to retain its position as a leader in science and technology we need to invest not only in the future generation of researchers, but also in the highly skilled workforce which will be needed to drive the economy. EPSRC invests in training centres which provide high quality postgraduate training in collaboration with industry. For example, the £2.2 million training centre in Nondestructive Evaluation administered from Imperial College in collaboration with Strathclyde, Bath, Bristol, Nottingham and Warwick Universities provides four-year doctorate training in collaboration with industry. The Centre produces postgraduates trained with a mix of advanced knowledge and professional development modules alongside company-based research. Companies collaborating in the centre include Airbus, BP, EDF, E-ON, GKN, Network Rail BAE Systems, RWE npower, Rolls-Royce, Serco Assurance, and Shell. Students work closely with their chosen sponsoring company, normally carrying out the majority of their project work at that company.



For the last 25 years EPSRC has supported research by Professor Mike Payne of the University of Cambridge and others in the development and exploitation of software for modelling and simulation at the molecular and atomic level. It allows simulations of the properties of solids, interfaces and surfaces for a wide range of materials including ceramics, semiconductors and metals. The software has application in a range of industry sectors such as chemicals and pharmaceuticals. In 1994 the software was licenced to Accelrys, a software company which provides solutions for drug discovery and materials science. The software has had annual sales in excess of £1 million pounds since 1998 and now has cumulative sales of more than £17 million. With continuing EPSRC support further developments of the software are being made extending its applicability and usefulness.


Industry animated about training The Centre for Digital Entertainment (CDE) is a collaboration between the University of Bath, Bournemouth University and industrial partners across the computer animation, games and film visual effects industries. The Centre has £6.3 million from EPSRC to support the training of the highly skilled people who will be the next generation of leaders in these areas, people who have design and management skills as well as being fully conversant with the latest technology. The Centre builds on Bath’s Media Technology Research Centre and Bournemouth’s National Centre for Computer Animation. Together with Bath’s expertise in placement degrees and Bournemouth’s unparalleled record for successful animation graduates, this has made the Centre the premier means for joint training of doctoral students in the companies’ own R&D facilities. The Centre has established collaborations with many companies who need to research new technologies for visual effects, computer animation, digital films and computer games. Partners and supporters include: Aardman Animations, Disney Research, Double Negative, Electronic Arts, Frontier Developments, Musion Systems, National Trust, Natural Motion, Smoke & Mirrors, Think Research, West Highland Animation, Wonky Films, Uformia, Arts Catalyst, 4T2, Tank Museum/OVGEM, Sumo Digital, Codeplay Software, Venatrack, Liverpool Conservation Technologies.

Other statements in the series

PIONEERING A DIGITAL FUTURE Research Councils UK Digital Economy Programme


MANUFACTURING THE FUTURE Creating new industries and new jobs


The Research Councils UK Energy Programme

tuNABLe stArCh for GreeN CheMistrY

10 years ago PhD research in the University of York’s Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence led to the discovery of new high surface area forms of starch. These are useful in applications from chromatography to catalysis. These new materials have remarkable properties which can be ‘tuned’ from starch-like to carbon-like. Named “Starbons” (registered trade name), they are the subject of several patent applications and are sold commercially for laboratory use worldwide. Continued EPSRC support is allowing their use in a number of processes including effluent treatment in the pharmaceutical industry as well as studies on process optimisation, scale-up trials and further applications with the chemical industry. Brian Trenbirth, Technical Director of Contract Chemicals a user of the Starbon technology says that they “will be delighted to transfer Starbon technology from laboratory through pilot to full scale production. This innovative technology will enable us to diversify our business portfolio thus helping the company to expand”.

EPSRC is the main UK government agency for funding high-quality basic, strategic and applied research and related postgraduate training in engineering and the physical sciences, to help the nation exploit the next generation of technological change. It invests more than £800 million a year in a broad range of subjects – from mathematics to materials science, and from information technology to structural engineering.

August 2010




Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council


Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council


EPSRC is the main UK government agency for funding high-quality basic, strategic and applied research and related postgraduate training in engineering and the physical sciences, to help the nation exploit the next generation of technological change. It invests more than £850 million a year in a broad range of subjects – from mathematics to materials science, and from information technology to structural engineering.


caSe Study 03


Global production of cement is set to double to over five billion tonnes/year by 2050. But the type most commonly used today has a heavy environmental price accounting for five percent of manmade CO2 emissions. Novacem’s cement is carbon-negative absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere during manufacture. This is because it isn’t limestone based, requires low process temperatures and contains carbon-negative additives. The company has received additional venture funding through the Royal Society Enterprise Fund and is seeking further commercial sponsorship to take the process through to manufacture.

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council


Other statements in the series:

EPSRC funding has played a key role in developing both a new, carbon-negative cement and its manufacturing process. The development is spearheaded by Novacem, a spin-out company from Imperial College London and is also supported by the Technology Strategy Board and the London Development Agency.


engineering and Physical Sciences research council


caSe Study 04

CeMeNt set to reDuCe CArBoN eMissioNs

Delivering With Business: Harnessing world-class knowledge for growth and prosperity  

EPSRC supports the research and funding vital for innovation, skills and growth. Our flexible funding processes enable universities to colla...