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80 October 2010

In touch with opportunities from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

Meeting of minds A new initiative to nurture creative thinking and galvanise team dynamics has been introduced by EPSRC – and paves the way for new-style sessions run by university project teams themselves. Most academics pride themselves on their problem-solving skills – and rightly so. It’s our stock-in trade. But imagine what it might be like if we could all take our creative thinking and productivity to a higher level? New-style academic-led free-thinking sessions inspired by a series of EPSRC pilots look set to do just that. EPSRC invited leading professional facilitators to devise bespoke sessions that specifically focus on creative problemsolving (CPS). Over 70 academics and industrial partners were invited to take part in the pilots – and were encouraged to leave their preconceptions at the door. The project, entitled Creativity@home, was piloted with six cross-disciplinary EPSRCfunded research groups. Each group was given access to a professional facilitator for up to three working days – the aims and objectives were left up to the groups to decide. EPSRC’s Dr Paula Duxbury says: “The new-style cross-disciplinary sessions are all about arming yourself with a set of tools to help you work smarter and more productively – where the methods and tools are just as important as the outcomes. The feedback (www.epsrc. creativethinkinginresearch.aspx) we received was fantastic. We couldn’t have hoped for better.” Space prevents a detailed explanation of the CPS process; suffice to say it not only opens your mind up to new ways of thinking, it maximises the power of group collaboration – and is entirely focused on achieving practical results. One of the delegates, Oscar Ces, a senior

lecturer from the Department of Chemistry and Institute of Chemical Biology at Imperial College London, says: “The science that emerged from the sessions was very much applied science, which had either a medical or industrial relevance. The facilitators really know their stuff; they know how to work with academics and how to get the most of the group dynamic. The icing on the cake is that the problem-solving techniques we learned will have a lasting benefit.” PhD student Aline Vernier says: “Like most physicists I’m dubious about terms like ‘creativity workshop’, and I was initially sceptical about the project. In fact it turned out to be a very stimulating meeting of minds. “No idea was a bad idea, and any criticism was held back until each suggestion had been carefully considered. We all came away armed with new problem-solving techniques. But you have to be disciplined, and keep working at your technique, like you would with a musical instrument.”

The new-style crossdisciplinary workshops are all about arming yourself with a set of tools to help you work smarter and more productively. Paula Duxbury says: “Some might argue that you don’t need blue-sky thinking sessions to learn how to think creatively, but results from the pilots were so encouraging that EPSRC is offering its programme grant holders the opportunity to hold their own creative problem-solving sessions based on this model.

Wider impact Dr Wing-Chau Tung, a project manager at the Institute of Chemical Biology at Imperial College London, participated in the Creativity@home project. Wing-Chau says: “The facilitators were excellent, and inspired a fresh approach to traditional brainstorming, as well as to how we present our findings to stakeholders. So much so that we are already training our own people at ICL to run creative problem-solving sessions using the tools we gained from the scheme, with a view to rolling out the facilitated model throughout the university.”

Contact: Paula Duxbury

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inaugural meeting of THE chemistry grand challenge



“We’re also exploring how the concept might apply to other strategic investments.” 1

A chance to influence: Technical Opportunities Panel and User Panel EPSRC is seeking applications for individuals wishing to join two of its three principal advisory bodies, the Technical Opportunities Panel (TOP) and the User Panel (UP). The Societal Issues Panel (SIP) will not be seeking new members this year. Membership of one of the advisory bodies covers a wide range of perspectives and includes senior, experienced figures from the academic, industrial, and commercial communities. The advisory bodies help to formulate policy by advising the EPSRC Executive and Council, our senior decision-making body, which is responsible for determining our policy, priorities and strategy. TOP, UP and SIP provide an informed and representative view on the requirements for research, training, knowledge transfer and public engagement across the breadth of

Applying for computing time on HECToR EPSRC seeks high-quality applications to exploit the world-class supercomputing facility, HECToR. The Resource Allocation Panel (RAP) provides an additional route for researchers to apply for HECToR computing time only, outside of a full grant application. The RAP meets three times a year. Full information, as well as the closing date for the next panel, can be found on the EPSRC calls page. Contact: Matthew Davis Further information: open/Pages/hectorrap.aspx

the EPSRC remit, thus enabling us to meet the goals set out in the Science and Innovation Investment Framework (2004-2014). Applications to join a principal advisory body are invited from 18 October 2010 and should be completed online at: membership2011. The deadline for applications is 19 November 2010. Further information on TOP, UP and SIP, including full terms of reference, can be found on our website. EPSRC is committed to a policy of equal opportunities.

Further information: governance/Pages/default.aspx

We are looking for individuals who have: • an established record of achievement • experience of working at senior management or board level • a background in engineering and/or physical sciences

• a specific interest in the work of the Research Councils • a willingness to act as a ‘generous generalist’ rather than a champion of a particular discipline or sector, and

• an ability to work collectively to address difficult issues from a number of perspectives.

Heriot-Watt IMRC conference highlights The sixth annual conference of the Heriot-Watt University Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre (HWIMRC) took place at the university’s Riccarton campus in July. Heriot-Watt IMRC plays an important role in EPSRC’s Manufacturing Strategy through creating and disseminating innovative manufacturing research in Photonics, Microsystems and Digital Tools to address major long-term manufacturing challenges in these areas. It is Scotland’s only IMRC. The conference featured keynote speakers from John Deere & Company, New York University, EPSRC, TSB, KTP and Virtual Interconnect Ltd; and the IMRC’s relevance to industry was evidenced by the announcement that BAE Systems Surface Ships has signed a memorandum of understanding with Heriot-Watt worth £5 million over the next five years.

The HW-IMRC was formed in 2003, with the award of a £4.2 million foundation IMRC grant from EPSRC. The programme was renewed for a second five-year period in April 2008 with a further grant award of £7.3 million. The team has won an additional £5 million for its IMRC research projects from industrial partners, and an additional £10 million from non-IMRC sources since its inauguration in 2003.

Further information: 2

Research Councils UK Digital Economy Programme Digital technologies are transforming business, government and society. Research is vital in making sure they have the best possible impact for everyone. The Research Councils UK Digital Economy Programme is supporting research to understand how the novel design and use of digital technologies can contribute to an innovative, healthy economy and inclusive society. John Hand, Head of the RCUK Digital Economy Programme, says: “The programme is truly multidisciplinary, and brings together a unique community of researchers from diverse disciplines including social science, engineering, computer science, the arts, and medical research to understand how digital technologies can be used to benefit society and the economy.

Led by the EPSRC, the Digital Economy Programme brings together the work of EPSRC and that of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC). Examples of recent projects can be found at:

The Digital Economy programme focuses on some of the major issues facing Britain.

Digital Economy brand guidelines Researchers receiving support from the RCUK Digital Economy programme must be aware of the brand guidelines to be used when publicising their research.

“The Digital Economy programme focuses on some of the major issues facing Britain and the rest of the world in the 21st century, including healthcare, digital inclusion, increasing innovation in the UK economy and stimulating the creative industries. “Investments in large-scale multidisciplinary research hubs and Centres for Doctoral Training are creating a critical mass of research activity.” The programme has invested £120 million between 2008 and 2011, including a £38 million investment in three major research hubs and a £36 million investment in Centres for Doctoral Training.

When referring to research under the programme, individual council logos must not be used, and all publicised activities must use the approved Digital Economy logo (along with any project logos as desired). The approved logos must be used together with the following wording, agreed across RCUK: ‘The Digital Economy Programme is a Research Councils UK cross-council initiative led by EPSRC and contributed to by AHRC, ESRC, and MRC’. Further information: Contact: Helen Bailey

Join the Energy Harvesting Network EPSRC is funding a global Energy Harvesting Network open to industry and the research community – and all members of the research community are invited to join. Energy Harvesting is a means of powering wireless electronic devices by scavenging many low grade ambient energy sources, such as environmental vibrations, human motion, thermal gradients and light, so that they can be converted into usable electrical energy. The potential is limitless. The network is managed by the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science, and is bringing together UK academic and industrial researchers and end-users of energy harvesting technology. Researchers and industrialists are invited to contribute to the Network website, where news and events are regularly posted.

Contact: Steve Beeby Further information:



To find out more about EPSRC funding opportunities please visit: callsforproposals or sign-up to e-alerts and RSS feeds.


October 2010 Issue 80

Cross-council funding opportunity Support for collaborative networks in chemical biology. EPSRC, in partnership with BBSRC and MRC, wish to support between five and eight collaborative networks between academia and users1 in the area of chemical biology. Up to £800,000 is available for this initiative – 80% Full Economic Costing. We are looking to fund networks that will foster collaborative endeavours between academic researchers and user organisations, working across the boundaries of BBSRC, EPSRC and MRC’s remits, in order to tackle significant research challenges in chemical biology. We hope these networks will build on connections made at the cross-council workshop which took place on 10 June 2010 ( reports/Pages/exploitation.aspx). The initiative is open to researchers based at any institution eligible for EPSRC, BBSRC or MRC targeted funding. 1 Here we define users as any organisation that has the potential to use and/or exploit the outputs of Research Councils-funded research.

Further information:

Chemical Sciences Grand Challenge network launch meeting The inaugural meeting of two Chemistry Grand Challenge networks takes place on 20 October. The Challenges aim to revolutionise the science which underlies much UK industrial output. Earlier this year EPSRC set up three networks to consider some of the Grand Challenges facing Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and related science subjects over the next few decades. The inaugural meeting of two of these networks, Dial-a-Molecule and Direct Assembly of Extended Structures with Targeted Properties, will take place on 20 October at the ICC, Birmingham. The meeting represents the perfect opportunity for the community to help shape the future development of chemistry and chemical engineering. Both Grand Challenges will produce a technology roadmap which combines ambitious academic challenges with industrial delivery.

The inaugural meeting will consist of plenary talks and workshops, during which the participants are expected to define the scope and agenda of the two Grand Challenges. The meeting will bring together people from a wide range of fields aiming to revolutionise the science which underlies much of the UK’s industrial output.

Further information: dialamol/conference/index.html chemicalbiology/Pages/default.aspx

Bright IDEAS in chemistry A Dragons’ Den-style panel awarded £1.4 million in grants to the six winners of the Big Pitch: Chemistry and Beyond call. From a starting line-up of 96 outline proposals, six applicants have been selected to receive 18-month Bright IDEAS grants of up to £250,000 resulting from the Physical Sciences Programme’s Big Pitch: Chemistry and Beyond call, launched earlier this year. Portfolio manager Dr Natalie Stear says: “The aim of the call was to encourage pioneering and potentially transformative research projects that cross the boundaries between chemistry and other disciplines. A high degree of risk in the projects was encouraged – and welcomed.” The judging panel selected 12 outline proposals to take forward to the next stage

– a Dragons’ Den style peer review. Twelve academics had just 15 minutes to pitch their ideas to a panel of academics and industrialists, followed by 30 minutes of questioning by the panel.

A high degree of risk in the projects was encouraged – and welcomed. Natalie says: “The panel were looking for exciting and creative approaches to big problems that only a combination of novel chemistry and another discipline could tackle.

“The six winning applications were extremely diverse, and range in scope from ‘Full Configuration Interaction Quantum Monte Carlo’ to Degradable Materials for 3D Tissue Engineering Scaffolds – and beyond’.” You can find out more about the successful projects on the EPSRC website. To ensure the outcome of the research reaches a wide audience, investigators will be posting regular progress reports on EPSRC’s YouTube website at sixmonthly intervals.

Further information: EPSRCvideo Contact: Natalie Stear


International collaboration sabbatical EPSRC’s Materials, Mechanical and Medical Engineering Programme is seeking to build stronger international research links. The International Collaboration Sabbatical (ICS) scheme is designed to nurture bestwith-best international links. It will increase the quality of international collaboration within the programme’s portfolio by allowing top UK researchers to embark on extended overseas visits to worldleading research centres. The International Collaboration Sabbatical scheme is designed to give flexibility to researchers in terms of timing: there is no single dedicated panel after the closing date and proposals are processed as and when they are submitted. For this reason, applicants are encouraged to submit their proposals as soon as they are ready.

The ICS call was launched in May 2010 as a pilot, initially focusing on building links with US research groups. Visits should be built around a research programme and will be of three to 12 months duration. In line with objectives set out in EPSRC’s Strategic Plan 2010 and RCUK’s Our Vision for International Collaboration, the programme has identified a need to focus on fostering international excellence. ICS breaks down some of the barriers to establishing close, lasting international links, for example investigators are able to request travel and accommodation costs for family and key research staff.

Contact: Stephen Kemp

International Review of Mathematical Sciences 2010 EPSRC International Review of Mathematical Sciences 2010 – submission of evidence.

To obtain the views of the widest possible

EPSRC is conducting an International

evidence directly. In addition, a public

Review of Mathematical Sciences to be

invitation to submit evidence was also

held in December 2010. The review is

featured on the EPSRC website from the

being guided by a steering committee

end of July 2010 until 30 September 2010.

chaired by Professor Tim Pedley.

We would like to take this opportunity to

The international review comprises of

thank everyone who has taken the time

two key stages: information and data

to submit their views; the International

collection (of which this notice is a part)

Panel will greatly appreciate all

followed by a review week.

contributions made.

audience these institutions and other key stakeholders were invited to submit

During the review week, an international panel, chaired by Professor Margaret Wright, of the Courant Institute, New York University, will meet with some of the leading mathematical scientists

Further information: intrevs/2010maths/Pages/default. aspx

Changes to EPSRC’s public engagement agenda As part of an ongoing review of how we allocate our resources, we will no longer be funding public engagement activities via the Partnerships for Public Engagement (PPE) Scheme. Our commitment to public engagement has not diminished, however, and we will embed public engagement activities through our research and training investments. It has always been our intention to integrate public engagement within the EPSRC portfolio. This will enable us to build high-quality public engagement activities that are more closely linked to the research we fund, encompass a greater section of the research community and ultimately will have the potential for much greater impact than the current dedicated funding scheme. Public engagement activities will continue to be supported via research grants as part of Pathways to Impact. Working together with our research communities and other partners, we will continue to encourage researchers to actively explore ways to promote the impact of their work. Public engagement activities may be an appropriate aspect of this. Further information can be found on the Research Councils UK Impacts website Over the next few months we will be consulting with advisory groups on how to maximise the impact of our embedded public engagement portfolio in the run up to April 2011, when we will cease to offer dedicated support for public engagement. We may also hold workshops to help the research community adjust to the new way of working. The acceleration of our public engagement agenda will be incorporated within EPSRC’s draft Delivery Plan to put forward into the Spending Review. Contact: Joanna Coleman

from over 40 of the UK’s most prestigious institutions.


October 2010 Issue 80

EPSRC Contacts For further programme information:

Head of Materials, Mechanical and Medical Engineering Mark Claydon-Smith 01793 444440 Head of Information and Communications Technology Liam Blackwell 01793 444217 Head of Energy Multidisciplinary Applications Jason Green 01793 444208 Head of Peer Review Susan Morrell 01793 444462 Head of Digital Economy John Hand 01793 444394 Head of Next Generation Healthcare Rachel Bishop 01793 444335 Head of Nanotechnology Rachel Bishop 01793 444335 Head of Knowledge Transfer John Baird 01793 444047 Head of Mathematical Sciences and Public Engagement David Harman 01793 444304 Head of Energy Research Capacity Jason Green 01793 444208 Head of Engineering for Sustainability Philippa Hemmings 01793 444378 Head of Cross Disciplinary Interfaces Kedar Pandya 01793 444317 Head of User Led Knowledge and Skills Alan Thomas 01793 442806 Head of Infrastructure and International Jane Nicholson 01793 444065 Head of Physical Sciences Andrew Bourne 01793 444358 Head of Research Careers Strategy Lucy Brady 01793 444147 Maggie Wilson 01793 444333 Head of Business Relationships Emma Feltham 01793 444321 Senior Manager International Edward Clarke 01793 444438 Senior Manager Public Engagement Jo Coleman 01793 444209 Michelle Lascelles 01793 444461

Basic Technology grants generate rich portfolio An EPSRC theme day to assess its £165 million investment in Basic Technology Research showed the portfolio to be in excellent health. At the event, posters for 47 Basic Technology grants were evaluated by a cross-disciplinary panel of experts drawn from industry and the research community, tasked with assessing the portfolio against international benchmarks. They weren’t disappointed. The Basic Technology Programme was originally proposed in 1999 as a cross-council programme to give technology research the same status as scientific research. The final report, published last month, notes that science is inherently convergent, bringing methods together to answer a single question, while technology is more divergent – a new technology can be applied in many fields. The Basic Technology Programme was therefore designed to support risky new technologies not supported adequately by conventional platforms – and there were no boundaries to what could be supported. Portfolio manager Zoe Brown says: "The strengths of the Basic Technology Programme were in generating capability and not being topically prescriptive – and the panel found that the most exciting projects were those most closely aligned to this vision. "Overall, the panel found the Basic Technology research portfolio to be very healthy, and were excited by much of the research they evaluated, as well as impressed by the leadership shown by many of the Principal Investigators. They also noted that almost all projects had features which could have been highlighted in the final report. "The panel felt that many of the strongest projects were those involved in the integration of several divergent technologies and contributing to the development of a generic technology base." EPSRC is inviting proposals for the development of Novel Technologies to support the needs of cross-disciplinary science and engineering in the 21st century. For details, see further information below.

IDEAS Factory Contact Susan Morrell 01793 444462

For current grant maintenance and grant assessment queries Engineering Chris Elson 01793 444504 Technology Valerie Hibberd 01793 444560 Science Jan Tucker 01793 444046 EPSRC, Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1ET Telephone: 01793 444000 Editor: Mark Mallett, Production Editor: Rachael Brown, Circulation amendments: © Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council 2010. ISSN 1476-6485 Material may be reproduced providing the source is acknowledged.

Contact: Zoe Brown Further information: Pages/default1.aspx

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Connect: Issue 80  

Edition 80 of our newsletter. In this edition: A chance to join an EPSRC advisory body, Connecting with the digital economy programme, Inaug...

Connect: Issue 80  

Edition 80 of our newsletter. In this edition: A chance to join an EPSRC advisory body, Connecting with the digital economy programme, Inaug...

Profile for epsrc