Pioneering research for growth
21st century solar power Research highlights Smarter food packaging Working with EPSRC
EPSRC investment news
green, highly efficient food packaging technologies
In profile: Professor Lionel Tarassenko, director of the Oxford Institute of Biomedical Engineering, describes key moments in his extraordinary career
A solar energy spin-out company with huge potential, and the backing to match
EPSRC-sponsored research in action
8-9 EPSRC researchers at the University of Bath are working with industry to create
Partnerships for growth: How users of EPSRC-sponsored research can benefit from EPSRC’s £3.2 billion research and training portfolio
MUTUAL PARTNERSHIP EPSRC chief executive, Professor David Delpy, outlines the key benefits of working in partnership with EPSRC. As the main UK government agency for funding research and training in engineering and the physical sciences, it’s EPSRC’s job to support the chemists, physicists and mathematicians who make sense of the world, and the engineers who design, build and shape it. Thirty per cent of UK GDP, 75 per cent of all industrial R&D, and 80 per cent of all UK exports are heavily dependent on the disciplines we support. The research we sponsor affects every aspect of daily life – from renewable energy to crime prevention; regenerative therapies to food packaging; MRI scanners to mobile phone cameras. Companies in many industrial sectors rely on the skills of the scientists and engineers we sponsor to create new products, structures and services. Over the years we have developed more than 2,300 relationships with business and other research users – from small start-ups
and SMEs to international corporations; from charities and learned societies to other research councils and government departments. Our relationship with these ‘user’ organisations is mutual. We provide the underpinning research and training that users need, but many say they are unable to fund on their own. We also give them access to a £3.2 billion portfolio that punches well above its weight internationally. In turn, user organisations bring to light important research challenges, help shape the EPSRC portfolio, and increase the impact that arises from investments we make. They also employ most of the people we have trained through our sponsorship. Discovery-led thinking is at the heart of what we do, but we also work with user organisations to ensure the research and training we sponsor is compatible, relevant and future-proof. For example, we offer a unique structured Industrial Doctorate enabling students to spend 75 per cent of their time working in industry. We have also invested over £250 million in over 70 university-based centres to equip doctoral students with the skills required by industrial employers in areas such as biomedical engineering, wind and
solar energy, security science, and water management. We are playing a fundamental part in supporting the UK’s drive for economic growth. In a recent survey of leading UK employers 83 per cent said doctorate holders had improved their company’s position against their competitors – and a 2011 report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England valued the contribution of UK universities to economic growth at £3 billion. In addition, we continue to invest in centres of excellence dedicated to tackling issues at the heart of 21st century manufacturing – from ethical sourcing and sustainable development to through-life product development and high-yield, low-cost technologies and processes. Finally, we are strengthening our partnership with organisations like the Technology Strategy Board, which is providing vital expertise and investment as together we drive EPSRC-sponsored research towards application. Research and training excellence can only be achieved by combining the best our university system has to offer with mutual collaboration and investment between research funders and research users. We’re not just in this together, we belong together.
briefings £9 million towards nanotech healthcare EPSRC, in partnership with the Technology Strategy Board, is investing up to £9 million in grant funding to support business-led collaborative research projects focused on translating worldclass early stage ideas from academia into commercially available nanoscale technology-enabled healthcare. Further details can found at www.innovateuk.org.
Transforming the digital city Imperial College London has been awarded a £5.9 million, five-year grant by the EPSRC-led Research Councils UK Digital Economy Programme to transform the way our cities are used. Researchers are investigating how digital technologies can boost the capabilities of the energy, health, transport and utility resources in our cities, so that they can run as effectively as possible.
Centre for cybersecurity launched EPSRC is sponsoring a new crossdisciplinary Centre for Cyber and Security Sciences at City University London. The centre brings together expertise across the university to tackle the growing threats posed by cyber terrorism and cyber crime, and will draw from disciplines including information security; network security; physical security; cryptography; software reliability and systems science. The centre is also collaborating on a newlylaunched EPSRC project examining the ways in which a person’s real identity can be linked to their virtual identity. City University will collaborate with the Home Office, University College London and the University of St Andrews on the project.
BOOST FOR NANOTECH HEALTHCARE
DIGITAL CITY INITIATIVE
£50 MILLION GRAPHENE RESEARCH HUB
NEW CYBERSECURITY CENTRE
RENEWABLE ENERGY TRAINING CENTRE
NEW CHEMICAL BIOLOGY INITIATIVE
£6.5 million renewable energy training centre EPSRC and the Energy Technologies Institute are investing £6.5 million in an EPSRC-led renewable energy programme that will see universities and industry provide training for up to 50 of the best engineering students as part of a new Industrial Doctorate Centre in Offshore Renewable Energy. Working at the heart of industry, alongside global leaders like EDF Energy, Shell and Rolls-Royce, the students will be trained in
the most innovative future technologies – from designing cost-efficient wind turbine blades to testing the latest wave energy technology. The engineers will also receive training in business and entrepreneurship alongside their research and technical skills. Training will be delivered through Edinburgh, Strathclyde and Exeter universities, together with the Scottish Association for Marine Science and the consultancy firm, HR Wallingford.
£50 million graphene research hub The government has announced it will be investing £50 million in a global research and technology hub for research into wonder material graphene.
semiconductor industry by replacing silicon. EPSRC-sponsored researchers are also investigating its use in highspeed broadband applications.
The new hub will bring together researchers and companies seeking to exploit graphene’s incredible commercial potential.
EPSRC has supported graphene research for over a decade, and continues to fund the ground-breaking work of materials scientists Professor Andre Geim and Dr Konstantin Novoselov, from the University of Manchester, who were awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics for their research into graphene.
Graphene is the strongest, thinnest material ever measured, and an exceptionally good electrical conductor. It is 200 times tougher than steel, and can be stretched by a quarter of its length, making it suitable for a host of commercial applications, such as flexible touchscreens. Graphene could potentially revolutionise the
Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts, says: “This is an excellent example of leading-edge British science being harnessed to drive economic growth and create high technology jobs.”
EPSRC has received a Partner of Choice award from the world’s largest consumer products company, Procter and Gamble, at an annual awards ceremony celebrating top-performing global partners. EPSRC’s Director of Business Innovation, Catherine Coates, says: “Around 40 per cent of our portfolio is collaborative with industry and other research users. The award is testament to our close working relationship with P&G since beginning our strategic partnership in 2006.”
A ground-breaking collaboration between academia and over 20 user organisations, including GlaxoSmithKline, Syngenta, UCB, AstraZeneca, Bayer, the NHS and Cancer Research UK, has received a £1.2 million investment from EPSRC, the Medical Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council to aid research and knowledge-sharing at the chemical biology interface. The networks will also collaborate on R&D discipline-hopping between academia and research users.
STEEL COATING HAS THE EDGE
FUEL CELL SPIN-OUT OPENS NEW FACILITY
SYNTHETIC ORGAN BREAKTHROUGH
ALGAE CLEANS UP
THE LIES HAVE IT FOR DETECTION TECHNOLOGY
Stainless steel surface has the edge
Fuel cell spin-out opens new facility
Scientists at the University of Birmingham have devised a way of making stainless steel surfaces resistant to bacteria, in a project funded by EPSRC. By introducing silver or copper into the steel surface (rather than coating it on to the surface), the researchers have developed a technique that not only kills bacteria but makes the surface hard and resistant to wear and tear during cleaning.
World’s first synthetic organ transplant Surgeons in Sweden have carried out the world’s first synthetic organ transplant using a windpipe ‘grown’ from the patient’s stem cells. The replica organ was designed and developed by a multidisciplinary team of EPSRC-sponsored scientists led by
Bacteria-resistant stainless steel surfaces could be used to prevent the spread of infection in hospitals, as well as in medical equipment. They would also be of use to the food industry and in kitchens.
Professor Alex Seifalian at University College London. EPSRC sponsorship of the project began in 2006. The team used 3D computerised tomography scans of the patient to craft a perfect copy of his trachea using a glass mould. From the mould the surgeons developed a replica ‘scaffold’ using a novel nanocomposite polymer and ‘seeded’ the patient’s stem cells onto the mould.
The lies have it EPSRC-sponsored researchers from the University of Bradford have developed face recognition technology which could be used to detect when lies are being told. There are plans to trial the system at a UK airport. The system uses cameras and computer software to spot small facial clues that
someone is being dishonest, such as lip-biting, blinking, flushing and blood-flow patterns around the eyes. The researchers say the device, developed in association with the Home Office and HMRC, is 70 per cent accurate and could reach 90 per cent accuracy.
Ceres Power, an award-winning green energy company borne out of EPSRCfunded research at Imperial College London, has opened a new fuel cell manufacturing facility in Horsham, Sussex. The launch was presided over by Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, Mark Prisk MP. The group has partnered with British Gas to sell, install, service and maintain its revolutionary Combined Heat and Power product in UK homes. The product, which replaces conventional boiler technology, can convert natural gas into electricity and heat without burning it, offering household savings of up to 25 per cent of their annual total energy costs and reducing their carbon dioxide emissions. The company has created more than 170 highly skilled ‘green collar’ jobs at its manufacturing facility in Horsham and technology centre in Crawley.
Green and clean A new industrial plant that uses algae to clean waste water has opened in Gloucestershire. The plant is run by scientists from the University of Bath and environmental innovation company Aragreen. The production process includes harvesting the ‘used’ algae to create saleable products. The project also has the potential to use waste carbon dioxide from industry to enhance the process and make use of another waste stream. The project is funded by a grant of £400,000 from the University of Bath’s EPSRC Knowledge Transfer Account, matched by Aragreen. The plant was built at additional cost, funded by Aragreen.
NEW POWER GEL FOR ZIPPIER GADGETS
AUTONOMY SOLD FOR £6 BILLION
SPIIN-OUT ON THE CREST OF A WAVE
SCIENTISTS SOLVE KEY PLASTIC PROBLEM
DEEP-SEA WELDING BOOST
Autonomy sold for £6 billion
EPSRC-sponsored University of Leeds scientists have invented a polymer gel that can be used to manufacture cheaper lithium batteries without compromising performance. The gel replaces the volatile and hazardous liquid electrolyte currently found in most lithium batteries, which are used in a wide range of portable consumer electronics such as laptops. The development could lead to smaller, cheaper and safer gadgets. The technology has been licensed to US company Polystor Energy Corporation,
Crest of a wave Aquamarine Power, a pioneering hydroelectric wave energy company set up to commercialise EPSRC-backed research, has installed a second fullscale Oyster wave energy converter at its offshore Orkney site. The Oyster 800 machine can generate 250 per cent more power than Aquamarine Power’s first full-scale device, at a third of the cost. Aquamarine Power has worked with over 30 local firms and spent over £2 million in the local economy since beginning work in Orkney. In September 2011 the company took another major step towards the commercialisation of its Oyster technology with the announcement of £7 million of new funding and a commitment of further investment from its shareholders. The news follows the announcement of a £3.4 million loan from Barclays to part-finance the completion of a 2.4 megawatt Oyster array.
which is conducting trials to commercialise cells for portable consumer electronics. The research was funded by EPSRC and Yorkshire Concept.
The Autonomy Corporation, a company founded by Mike Lynch OBE to commercialise his EPSRC-funded PhD thesis and subsequent research projects, has been sold for £6 billion to US computing giant Hewlett Packard. It is the largest takeover of a FTSE 100 company since Kraft bought out Cadbury for £13 billion early in 2010. Mike Lynch will stay on to run the company as a separate division. Over 90 per cent of Fortune 1,000 companies are Autonomy customers and more than two billion people rely on the company’s software every day.
Deep impact EPSRC-sponsored research at Cranfield University has led to new world-record depths in subsea welding. It is expected the results will significantly impact the offshore pipeline industry across the oil and gas and renewable energy sectors. The research was funded initially by EPSRC, and led to the installation of the world’s highest pressure dry hyperbaric welding chamber at the university in 1997. This research led to technology that enabled welders to work at hitherto impossible depths of up to 940msw (metres of sea water) – over 600msw deeper than the previous record.
The research is supported by the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing at Cranfield, with the Nigerian Petroleum Technology Development Fund.
It will also increase our ability to recycle plastics.
EPSRC-sponsored researchers at the University of Leeds and Durham University have solved a long-standing problem that could revolutionise the way new plastics are developed.
The team is part of a 10-year collaboration between academics and industry experts to explore how better to build ‘macromolecules’. These long, tangled molecules are the basic components of plastics and dictate their properties during the melting, flowing and forming processes in plastics production.
The breakthrough will allow experts to create the ‘perfect’ plastic with specific uses and properties by using a high-tech recipe book.
FOLLOW THE EPSRC-sponsored researchers are pioneering new ways to convert solar energy into electricity with a new generation of low-cost, flexible organic solar cells that could revolutionise the energy sector. No wonder the project has attracted major investors and a host of collaborative partners.
n the long term, the team, led by Professor Tim Jones and Dr Ross Hatton from the University of Warwick’s Department of Chemistry, believe their organic solar cells could dramatically reduce the cost of generating electricity from sunlight as compared to conventional siliconbased solar cell technology, in a global market forecast to be worth around $100 billion by 2020. Sunlight, after all, is free. Every hour enough sunlight falls on the earth to meet humanity’s energy requirements for a year. Unlike other important sources of low carbon electricity, such as wind turbines, photovoltaic (PV) solar cells generate electricity silently, without any moving parts, and are carbon-based, Our technology has progressed to the point where we can focus on the first generation of applications – namely portable consumer electronics offering the prospect of a carbon solution to a carbon problem. Professor Jones says: “We work with the same basic materials as those used in organic light emitting diodes, which you can find in the latest flat screen TVs – but we’re using the reverse process, producing electricity from light instead of light from electricity.” New organic solutions All organic photovoltaic cells (OPVs) use semiconducting materials to absorb sunlight. A thin layer of the semiconductor is deposited onto a transparent substrate, traditionally made from glass, forming a transparent electrode – a vital component in the process to harvest electrons energised by sunlight and generate electric
current. To complete the device a top electrode is deposited by vacuum deposition or printing. To absorb sunlight, the Warwick team use organic dyes. The dyes can be processed at low temperature and their optical and electrical properties can be tuned for the application by chemical modification. Trouble is, while conventional organic solar cells have benefits over their inorganic silicon counterparts, they have long relied on Indium Tin Oxide (ITO)-coated glass as the transparent electrode. Rigid, unstable and relatively expensive, ITO is used largely due to the absence of a suitable alternative. Using nanotechnology, the Warwick team have succeeded in using an ultra-thin layer of gold, less than eight billionths of a metre thick, instead of ITO – a significant breakthrough – and have pioneered techniques to ensure the gold film is suitably transparent but also robust. They have also been successful in depositing ultra-thin gold films directly onto plastic surfaces. These two breakthroughs combined are a giant step towards realising the Holy Grail of truly flexible solar cells. Numerous benefits The use of gold as the transparent electrode may seem expensive, but since the metal layer used is so incredibly thin, it is relatively cheap – around £4.50 a square metre at current prices. Since the rest of the device is essentially only carbon and aluminium it is relatively easy to recoup the gold at the end of the device’s life. The potential applications for flexible organic PV technology are far-reaching, game-changing even, and could lead to a new generation of low-cost, sustainable, portable consumer electronics. From pencil-
thin mobile phone chargers that don’t need plugging in, to e-readers (think Amazon’s Kindle) that use ‘electronic ink’ to display text and images without using electricity, the technology could have major benefits in the developing world, where low-cost, reliable and sustainable energy sources are in short supply, but the demand for books and other information sources is great. Commercial break The team are working with Molecular Solar Ltd, a company they formed to commercialise the findings of their EPSRC-funded research. Molecular Solar recently completed a seed round of equity investment, led by Mercia Fund Management, as it steps up the pace to improve the performance of its unique solar cell technology to a level comparable to conventional flexible silicon technology. Crucially the Molecular Solar team believe the performance of the current generation of its OPV technology is close to being suitable for a number of consumer electronics applications and so are focused on translating the technology from the laboratory to the field. Dr Ross Hatton, a co-founder of the company, together with Professor Jones, says: “The ultimate goal is to reduce the cost of solar electricity generation to make it competitive with conventionally-generated electricity at the point of use. “Our technology has progressed to the point that we can now focus on the first generation of applications: namely portable consumer electronics. “Our funding from EPSRC, the Technology Strategy Board and our investors will enable us to build the first product prototypes and continue our leadership in this field.”
E SUN TAKING RESEARCH TO THE NEXT LEVEL
ABOUT MOLECULAR SOLAR LTD
SUPPORT FROM VENTURE CAPITAL
EPSRC and the Technology Strategy Board are co-funding 15 British businesses and seven universities with a total of £5 million to research the next generation of nano-scale solar energy technologies. The collaboration between Warwick University and Molecular Solar Ltd is one such enterprise. David Delpy, EPSRC’s chief executive, says: “Our investment in this technology is the first example of nanoscience research funding from the Research Councils being directly pulled through to application funding with the Technology Strategy Board via a stage-gated funding route. “This approach actively supports economic growth while helping to solve one of society’s greatest challenges.” Iain Gray, the Technology Strategy Board’s chief executive, says: “This project, and others like it, will help British businesses to exploit the growing global demand for solar energy harvesting technologies – helping grow the British economy while providing sustainable energy solutions for the UK. The project is a great example of how to transfer commercially-focused research into the business community.”
Molecular Solar Ltd was formed to commercialise the findings of EPSRCfunded research at the University of Warwick, focusing on third generation solar cell technology developed in a multi-million pound R&D programme at the university. Formed in 2008, early financial support for Molecular Solar came from the founders; the university; Warwick Ventures Ltd (responsible for commercialising technology at the university); RDA proof of concept funding; and a grant from the Technology Strategy Board. Rapid progress has since been made to demonstrate the technology’s viability. As well as increasing the efficiency of its organic photovoltaic cells, the firm hopes to bring costs down to 25p per watt of generating power, compared to over 60p for their inorganic flexible silicon counterparts. In addition, the technology it is creating will ensure the materials are not affected by light, water or oxygen degradation. www.molecularsolar.co.uk
Venture capital company Mercia Fund Management took the lead in Molecular Solar’s seed round of equity investment. It is also involved in a £5 million investment strategy to help Molecular Solar create its own bespoke technology facility to help bring its innovations to the market-place. Dr Mark Payton, managing director of Mercia Fund Management, says: “We focus on early-stage technology startups, and our model is to back worldleading academic excellence associated with scalable, disruptive technology. “Molecular Solar excels on all fronts and we see this new venture as the potential leader in the development of third generation organic solar technology, making this form of energy provision open to a much broader market-place.” www.merciafund.co.uk
The work was conducted under the auspices of the EPSRC SUPERGEN Excitonic Solar Cell consortium and the EPSRC Nanotechnology Grand Challenge Solar Programme.The work has been supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) / Advantage West Midlands Science City SCRA AM2 project, and the Royal Academy of Engineering.
Green and lean packaging machines EPSRC-sponsored research at the University of Bath’s Innovative Design and Manufacturing Research Centre has led to the development of greener, faster and more efficient food packaging processes.
he project brought together the team at Bath’s Innovative Design and Manufacturing Centre (IdMRC) with Campden BRI, an independent food and drinks research centre, and industrial partners, including Amcor, United Biscuits and machinery manufacturer, HayssenSandiacre, to develop improved ‘form-fill and seal’ food packaging used for foods such as rice, confectionery, pasta and crisps. The research is based on the Bath team’s investigations into how machines and materials interact. Within two years the team had provided the understanding necessary to design and build technology and processes with proven performance gains over existing packaging systems – reducing the amount of plastic used by over 13 per cent and pioneering new tooling designs that can be used with the latest biodegradable materials. Through a series of projects, funded by EPSRC together with DEFRA, new computer software, built on the theoretical and modelling expertise of the university’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, has been created. The IdMRC worked in collaboration with machinery manufacturers, packaging material producers, end users and trade associations, and used the materials
and packaging testing facilities of Campden BRI to design and test the new system. Smart modelling Vertical ‘form-fill-and-seal’ packaging takes a sheet of material (usually plastic film) and heat-seals the edges to form the packaging. The Bath team’s modelling showed it was possible to reduce the seal area, and hence the amount of material used. This knowledge and scientific understanding has been used by one of the collaborators to re-specify the design of sealing jaws to realise a 40 per cent reduction in sealing area and consequent annual material savings of around £1 million. Project lead at Bath IdMRC, Dr Ben Hicks, says: “Traditionally a new machine needs to be purchased for each packaging design. Our software not only enables manufacturers to custom-build machines with forming shoulders that can make ‘right first time’ product, but importantly reduces costly prototyping and development; the shoulders can also be retro-fitted to existing machinery, avoiding the need to purchase a completely new machine. Traditional trial and error testing and redesign could involve as many as 10 or more iterations.” Jim Goodwin, engineering director at HayssenSandiacre, estimates
that retrofitting newer tooling and technologies to existing machines will allow its customers to satisfy their ambitions without the purchase of completely new machine systems. What’s more, incorporating the new sealing and forming shoulder designs into just three per cent of its 3,000 European machines would provide incremental revenue of over £1 million.
REDUCING COSTS AND SAVING THE PLANET CAN GO HAND-IN-HAND Dr Ben Hicks, project lead, Bath Innovative Design and Manufacturing Centre
Successful application The software has already been successfully applied by HayssenSandiacre in conjunction with a major confectionery manufacturer to develop a new machine capable of producing a new design of packaging for one of its products. This application would have been significantly more difficult without the use of the new software. The research team has also investigated the potential of using recycled packaging materials in existing machines – something industry has been loathe to do as these materials could end up jamming or damaging the machinery. The research team has generated design rules for both forming shoulders and sealing jaws to prevent downtime
when new materials are used. This fundamental understanding has led to the creation of more efficient, high-speed systems using machines that could be automatically configured to handle different types of packaging as well as batch sizes. Dr Hicks says: “At Bath Innovative Design and Manufacturing Centre our research is all about ensuring the greatest possible benefit for UK manufacturing and society as a whole. “The project has shown that reducing costs and saving the planet can go hand-in-hand. “Using the lessons learned from this research, 39,000 tonnes of waste could be diverted from landfill per year. “Based on the current level of landfill tax, this would save £1.9 million in taxation alone.”
BATH Innovative Design and Manufacturing Centre (IdMRC)
The University of Bath Innovative Design and Manufacturing Centre (IdMRC) is part of an EPSRC-funded initiative to link world-class research activity at a number of UK centres of excellence with real-world commercial manufacturing expertise. In particular, the Bath IdMRC focuses on whole-life design information and knowledge management, and on improving the design of machines, processes and systems.
SUPPORTING UK MANUFACTURING The UK enjoys world leadership in established manufacturing industries such as aerospace and pharmaceuticals, and in emerging fields including electronics design and advanced manufacturing. EPSRC plays a pivotal role in supporting these industries; providing the cutting-edge research and highlyskilled people needed across the UK manufacturing spectrum – from product simulation, design and fabrication to systems, services, processes and products.
For the past decade, EPSRC has devoted increasing support for manufacturing through dedicated university-based centres. From 2001 to 2009, support focused on 18 Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres (IMRCs). Bath IdMRC is one such centre. In 2009, a revised funding model paved the way for EPSRC Centres for Innovative Manufacturing. These Centres incorporate the advantages of the IMRC funding model, such as stable, long-term funding, but have greater flexibility to respond to research results, address user-led research challenges and meet emerging market opportunities.
Manufacturing challenges include: regenerative therapies; photonics; industrial sustainability; continuous manufacturing and crystallisation; through-life engineering services; ultraprecision manufacturing; advanced metrology; additive manufacturing and intelligent automation. Working closely with partners, the 12 EPSRC Centres focus on driving innovative manufacturing into new areas by feeding ideas and discoveries through to business and the new Technology and Innovation Centres. As national facilities, EPSRC Centres for Innovative Manufacturing aim to create a nationwide network of expertise and contribute to the national manufacturing debate, as well as provide outreach to other centres and relevant research groups.
DOCTORATE-LEVEL TRAINING As part of its commitment to doctorallevel training with direct relevance to industry, EPSRC initiatives include: CASE Studentships Students enhance their training by spending between three and 18 months with their case partner in a workplace outside the academic partner. CASE studentships are corefunded by the UK Research Councils and awarded competitively.
Industrial Doctorate Centres (IDCs) Industrial Doctorate Centres operate across EPSRC’s remit and are structured to provide an industryfocused alternative to the traditional PhD for research engineers. Students at EPSRC IDCs spend around 75 per cent of their time working directly with the collaborating company. Industrial Doctorate Centres are a subset of EPSRC’s highly successful Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs), and provide the same training environment and features as CDTs but with a strong industrial focus. Within the centres, students carry out PhD-level research, jointly supervised by the university and commercial partners, with the aim of improving the business’s performance. Graduates are much sought after by business. In 2011 EPSRC announced it will be co-funding with industry five new Industrial Doctorate Centres covering key areas of advanced manufacturing vital to growth in the UK’s biggest industrial sectors, including aerospace and the automotive industry. In addition to training in future technologies, students will receive guidance on entrepreneurship and training in business skills.
Lionel Tarassenko What has influenced your career path? From an early age, I loved being creative, initially through writing plays. Then I discovered I could be creative through science (when I was 15, I built my first radio). I knew from my second year at university that I wanted to do research, because it allowed me to be creative and also to solve problems, which was the other activity I discovered I enjoyed. It has been a real privilege to pursue a career which has allowed me to combine creativity and problem-solving in research with writing (papers, articles and books) and a love of theatre – a good lecture has elements of the theatre in it. What work are you engaged in at present? Early warning systems for identifying hospital patients whose conditions are deteriorating; telehealth for people with long-term medical conditions. Who are your greatest influences? My father: a retired nuclear physicist, who showed me that being a maverick can lead to lateral thinking and unexpected advances in science. Professor David Clarke: one of my favourite lecturers when I was an undergraduate, who gave me a real liking for intellectual rigour and in-depth analysis. Professor Sir Michael Brady: for his passion for research, academic leadership and unstinting support for his colleagues. Greatest achievements? The Oxford Institute of Biomedical Engineering. I was involved from Day One, September 11 2001, meeting with Oxford medics. I was director when we moved into our new building on the medical campus with 120 staff, in April 2008. I am still director, after three spectacular years – we now have 250 staff. I would like to think my research has advanced patient care by bringing the methods of engineering and physical sciences to bear on
Interests outside science? Family life. The science and faith debate. The theatre and French cinema. Football – from playing to coaching to watching. What keeps you awake at night? Not very much – I have short nights but sleep well. Professor Lionel Tarassenko Lionel Tarassenko is the director of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Oxford. He is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and of the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng). Professor Tarassenko received an RAEng Silver Medal in 2006. He is the author of 24 granted patents and has founded three companies, including Oxford BioSignals (now OBS Medical), set up to exploit the neural network technology developed in his research lab for healthcare and aerospace applications. Its principal product, Visensia, an award-winning system used to manage critically ill patients, is based on research originally funded by EPSRC and is currently installed in more than a dozen hospitals in the US and the UK.
IT’S BEEN A PRIVILEGE COMBINING CREATIVITY AND PROBLEM-SOLVING medical problems. The knowledge that our patient monitoring system led to major reductions in the numbers of unexpected cardiac arrests in the hospital in which it was being trialled is the sort of thing that gets me up (early) in the morning. What would be your advice for would be start-up companies? Talk to someone who has done it before. Test your motivation for doing it (financial gain should come pretty low on the list). Don’t underestimate the demands on your time that spin-out activities will make. What have been your best and worst decisions? Best decision: coming back to Oxford to do a doctorate after three years in industry. The same decision was also my worst: leaving Racal-Vodafone after writing the technical report for the feasibility study of ‘cellular telephony’.
Oxford Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME) The IBME is a multidisciplinary centre focusing on medical technologies such as biomedical image analysis; e-health; bio-signal processing; therapeutic ultrasound and tissue engineering. The Insititute, based at the university’s Medical Research campus, opened in 2008 and hosts a Centre for Doctoral Training in Healthcare Innovation, under the RCUK Digital Economy initiative, led by EPSRC. It also hosts a Centre of Excellence in Medical Engineering funded jointly by the Wellcome Trust and EPSRC. Technikos Six years ago, George Robinson, an alumnus of Oxford University who had been a contemporary of Professor Tarassenko at Oxford, set up Technikos, a venture capital group specialising in medical technology. In 2006, Technikos entered into a formal, long-term commercial partnership with the university to help fund the new Institute of Biomedical Engineering in a £12 million private equity deal. Under the agreement, Technikos receives half the university’s equity in any biomedical spin-out from the IBME, along with half the university’s share of any IBME-derived royalties from licensing income.
Partnerships for growth Emma Feltham, EPSRC’s user engagement integrator, describes how EPSRC can help business and other research users make the most of its £3.2 billion portfolio. Emma says: “EPSRC is committed to fostering collaboration between academia, industry, intermediaries and other users of the research we sponsor. Around 40 per cent of our portfolio is collaborative with research users. We are committed to deepening these relationships: co-developing emerging systems, processes and technologies focused on UK growth and meeting national and global challenges. Since 2006 we have invested in over 6,000 research projects, and have in-depth knowledge of the people and the research taking place within the academic community. We have a wealth of information available to help users select the most appropriate partners – from multinational companies like Procter and Gamble to small start-up companies. This is backed by our rigorous method of assessing funding proposals – setting the benchmark for research quality. Our commitment to training is evident through our funding of around 30 per cent of all UK PhD students within engineering and physical sciences. We focus on creating a training environment that promotes excellence, encourages innovation, stimulates creativity and drives cultural, commercial and technological advances. A cornerstone of our training investment is to produce highly motivated individuals with the advanced technology skills required by a modern economy and who have the potential to progress to senior positions in the boardroom and in academia. Over the past decade we have supported 12,300 highly skilled postgraduates to move into industry and the public sector; and some 30 per cent of all studentships we fund are collaborative with 1,000 partners from industry and other user organisations. We also partner with other research funders, including business, to increase
the translation of research into earlystage new products and practice. To date we have generated further investment of £700 million in business and collaborator contributions. Our 28 strategic partnerships with industry, charities, government departments and other user organisations enable us to work jointly to share information; develop strategy; form new programmes and support individual projects – sponsoring research and training where the opportunities for impact are maximised. The bonds between us are strengthening all the time. For example, in September 2011 we held the first EPSRC and Rolls-Royce Strategic Partnership Conference in Cambridge. We know we have a winning formula. In October 2011, we received a major
partnership award from the world’s largest consumer products company, Procter and Gamble (see page 3). How can we help you? That’s simple. We understand the needs of priority sectors, such as aerospace and defence, energy and healthcare, and use our knowledge, coupled with advice from our partners, to shape our research and training agenda. We identify opportunities and facilitate projects that cut across disciplines and industries – driving collaborations that maximise creativity, innovation, efficiency and knowledge-sharing. Above all, we are focused on helping potential partners learn more about our £3.2 billion grants portfolio. Planned upgrades to our web site will make it easier than ever to find out how to start a winning partnership.”
Flying high: EPSRC’s strategic partnership with Rolls-Royce, which includes collaboration on its jet engine technology, goes from strength to strength, and led to the first joint EPSRC and Rolls-Royce conference in September 2011.
Building relationships, investing in people • • • • •
EPSRC’s £3.2 billion portfolio has attracted further investment of £700 million in business and collaborator contributions We collaborate with more than 2,300 companies and over 100 public bodies Over the past decade we have supported 12,300 highly skilled postgraduates to move into industry and the public sector Some 30 per cent of all studentships we fund are collaborative with 1,000 partners from industry and other research users Our 28 strategic partnerships with industry, charities, government departments and other user organisations enable us to work jointly to share information; develop strategy; form new programmes and support individual projects – supporting research and training where the opportunities for impact are maximised 30 per cent of all PhDs qualified in engineering and the physical sciences are funded by EPSRC 80 per cent of the inventors of major UK blockbuster drugs in the past 40 years, accounting for annual sales of £15 billion, had their PhD training funded by EPSRC.
For regular news of EPSRC sponsorship of UK research and training, visit our web site: www.epsrc.ac.uk
Special edition Pioneer highlighting how EPSRC-funded research and training is helping to tackle global challenges and major issues facing i...