Page 1

title HeRe


gEttINg pERsoNal

What stratified medicine means for the future of prescription

+ also INsIdE complEtINg thE loop

Taking a new approach to the energy question

a clEaNER, BRIghtER FutuRE

Revolutionising chemistry

thE powER oF REvolutIoN

Measuring the impact of cultural initiatives


contents // 2

Inside this issue 10

IN BRIEF 4-5 News and developments from across the University

Features 6 tackling obesity

New food products to control appetite and manage weight

8 All systems go

How Liverpool is leading the field in autonomous systems

10 the power of Cultural revolution

Measuring the economic impact of cultural initiatives

12 Getting personal about medicine

18 A cleaner, brighter future

21 Completing the loop

A profile of the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy


30 academic profile

Dave Adams, materials research chemist

31 all in the detail

Opening up the world of electron microscopy to SMEs

Case studies 24 AgustaWestland

Helping helicopters to take flight

Professor Munir Pirmohamed on the potential of stratified medicine


16 Small company, big impact

Documenting Liverpool's living history

Why research collaboration is not only for multinationals


A look at the University's partnership with Unilever

Saving the lives of newborns

28 Mapping memory

Production: University of Liverpool, Corporate Communications e:


A member of the Russell Group

Realise // 3



“The work that we do really is life changing, world shaping.”

EALISE focuses on the real achievements and the powerful potential that exists for the University of Liverpool to create impact through its activities intellectually, socially, culturally, industrially and economically. We are proud of the outstanding work we are involved in and never fail to be impressed by its far-reaching consequences – some of the results have already been realised, whilst others offer rich potential for the future. Our work really is life changing, world shaping. Much of this work is conducted by academics crossing traditional boundaries to develop truly interdisciplinary solutions. We are also building relationships with academic institutions, businesses and organisations on a global scale. As one of the UK’s Russell Group institutions we are committed to maintaining the very best research, an outstanding teaching and learning experience and unrivalled links with business and the public sector. Working in partnership delivers benefits for all – for the University there are the opportunities to spark new ideas, develop original research, make teaching ever more relevant to students’ job

prospects and open up additional funding streams. For businesses, there is the opportunityto access knowledge and expertise that creates innovation. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there are the outcomes these partnerships deliver to society – improving patient care and treatment, tackling the consequences of climate change, developing new materials in a sustainable manner, tackling food security issues and many more. The aim of REALISE is to raise awareness of our outstanding research, of the individuals who work here, of our state-of-theart facilities and specialist centres, and of the ways in which we proactively work with external partners to bring about positive change for all. If you are interested in talking to the University about specific expertise, the potential for collaboration, or you simply want to register your interest in being kept informed about future developments, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Professor Dinah Birch Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research & Knowledge Exchange)

in brief // 4

Tailored solutions


n addition to offering a broad range of courses and professional training, the University of Liverpool has a track record of developing and delivering bespoke continuing professional development (CPD), tailored to meet the specific needs of individual organisations. The University is working with the Merseyside Police Academy. Officers of various ranks are attending a series of seminars specifically designed to address some of the key issues and challenges facing today’s police forces. The training is delivered by academics with world-leading expertise in complementary areas of research including strategic, tactical and operational decision making, criminal behaviour, police powers, public order and protest, and youth gangs and gang culture. The research-based elements of these seminars are directly applicable to a range of University MSc courses. Developing CPD training that has the potential to lead to further education provision is something that the University’s CPD team is happy to discuss with other interested organisations.

To find out about customised CPD programmes, visit: info

Prostate cancer early warning protein detected Scientists at the University have discovered a protein only present in prostate cancer cells that could be used as a marker to detect early signs of the disease


ublished in the British Journal of Cancer, the research examines a unique sequence of a gene that produces a protein in prostate cancer cells, which may be linked to aggressive forms of the disease. The findings could contribute to future drug development programmes for those patients who are currently untreatable. Professor Chris Foster, from the University’s Institute of Translational Medicine, had previously shown that the gene, called PRKCZ, controls the aggressive behaviour of prostate cancer cells. He has now discovered that this gene changes its expression in prostate cancer cells and produces a protein that could be responsible for changing the behaviour of the cells. This means that the protein could be used as a potential marker for the disease, indicating which patients are at risk of developing a more aggressive type of cancer. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. Each year, approximately 40,800 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer in the UK and around 10,700 die from the disease. The findings of this study may provide a biological approach to treating men with aggressive forms of prostate cancer and for whom no specific therapy is currently available. The study is supported by Cancer Research UK and the North West Cancer Research Fund.

Realise // 5

overseas postcard

– malawi

dr nicholas beare of the University’s institute of ageing and chronic disease is working at Queen elizabeth central Hospital, Malawi, investigating malarial retinopathy as a diagnostic tool for cerebral malaria, a brain disease that results in the death of 800,000 children each year. to understand the condition better dr beare, as part of the Malawi-liverpool-wellcome trust clinical Research Programme, is looking for signs of the condition using sophisticated camera technology to image the back of the eyes. dr beare explains “cerebral malaria is a particular problem in africa, and is one of the leading causes of child death. “our research shows that the only way to be certain that a child has cerebral malaria is by the presence of malarial retinopathy. Many children come into the hospital in a coma, but by examining the eyes to look for signs of cerebral malaria we can be sure of the diagnosis and get them the correct treatment. “we have taken many retinal images of patients with cerebral malaria over the past five years and are now in the process of analysing them to get more detailed information about the condition. comparing our data with findings from brain MRi studies is also helping us build a better picture of the damage caused to the brain. “we are looking at survivors of the disease to assess whether there is any long-term impact of malarial retinopathy on vision. our studies on eye movements may help us detect subtle cognitive problems in survivors. work on retinal tissue may also improve our understanding of how the blocked blood vessels affect neural tissue.”

Simulation of the effect on vision of macular degeneration

powering sight Scientists and patients from the University of Liverpool and the Royal Liverpool University Hospital are at the forefront of a national study into the causes of blindness


esults indicate that the drug Avastin has similar effects to Lucentis in treating the commonest cause of blindness in the developed world. Professor Simon Harding, from the University’s Institute of Ageing and Chronic Disease, said: “If the results are adopted widely then the NHS might realise very significant savings, which could be reinvested in patient care.” The study, called IVAN (Alternative Treatments to Inhibit

Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor in Age-related Choroidal Neovascularisation), investigated whether Lucentis and Avastin, two drug treatments widely used for neovascular or ‘wet’ age-related macular degeneration (AMD), are equally effective. The study also looked into whether treatment as needed is as effective as monthly treatment. The results were reported at an international research meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and appear in the journal Ophthalmology. The IVAN study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the main NHS research funding agency in England and Wales.

tacKling obesity // 6

Realise // 7


obesity The University is leading a major European project to develop and test new food products with satiating qualities to help control appetite and manage weight


ATIN – SATiety Innovation is a five-year EUfunded project drawing together experts from academia and industry to produce new food products using the latest processing innovation techniques. Exploiting better understanding of the biological processes in the stomach and the brain that underpin what makes us feel ‘full’, the project will evaluate whether this approach is a viable weight management tool. Obesity is a major public health issue facing the European Union and reducing it is a priority for all European governments. It is estimated that 60% of men, 50% of women and 25% of children in the UK will be obese by 2050. Obesity has a severe impact on people’s health, increasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes, some cancers and heart and liver disease. The direct costs to the NHS caused by obesity are estimated to

be £4.2 billion per year in the UK. In several European countries, the cost of obesity has already reached 5% of public health expenditure. Professor Jason Halford, Director of the University’s Human Ingestive Behaviour Laboratory, explains, “Scientists have made tremendous advances in understanding the mechanisms of appetite expression, the processes of satiation and the physical characteristics of food on eating behaviour. Few satiety-enhancing products have successfully remained in the European market − traditional product development, reformulation and incorporation have largely failed to produce effective and appealing products. There is, therefore, a need to find further innovative ways of enhancing the satiating properties of foods.” The project comprises a consortium of 18 academic and industrial partners from nine European countries, including leading research institutes, large companies and small and medium-sized companies in the food and retail industry that specialise

in novel food formulation and production. Partners include AXXAM, Coca-Cola and a number of universities from the UK, Denmark and Spain. The project partners will use advanced forms of fermentation, vacuum technology, enzyme application, emulsification, ultrafiltration, drying, sublimation and freezing, heat treatment, protein modification and encapsulation to modify the structure of the foods in ways that help to make people feel less hungry or more full. The long-term objective of the project is to take novel ‘filling’ foods right through regulatory approval to commercialisation. SATIN is supported by the European Commission through Framework 7 Funding

aUtonoMoUs systeMs // 8

all systEms


machines ThaT ‘Think’ for Themselves mighT seem The sTUff of science ficTion, bUT The Technology is already here – and The UniversiTy of liverpool is leading The field in iTs developmenT, applicaTion and reliabiliTy. professor michael fisher explains


hat was once the realm of 1950s B movies has, in the 21st century, become fact – the advent of technologies that are able to ‘think’ and make decisions without human intervention. From unmanned air vehicles to space probes, sensors to electronic systems trading in financial markets, ‘autonomous systems’ may take many shapes and forms.. Autonomous systems are increasingly used by industry to meet a range of very different requirements, for example, to operate in places that are difficult to reach or are too dangerous – whether it be the depths of the ocean, where radiation can be hazardous, or the far reaches of space. They can also be used for operations requiring a speed of reaction beyond human capability, such as pressing a button a million times a minute, or to provide a more cost-effective way of controlling complex activity. In all these applications, the system must be able not only to ‘think’ on its own but, more importantly, to make intelligent and trustworthy decisions. But this autonomy brings new challenges: Can we fully trust such systems? Can we be sure that the system will choose the correct, safest, and most effective action? And, if the system learns new behaviours, can it become dangerous? The University of Liverpool has leading expertise in this field. Its Centre for Autonomous Systems Technology (CAST) has expertise in the design, development and deployment of safe and reliable autonomous systems. It brings together interdisciplinary research excellence across the fields of computer science, electrical engineering and

Realise // 9

electronics, engineering dynamics, and virtual engineering. Its research encompasses the construction of hardware, the development of software to operate, and detailed analysis of the decisions made by software. Fundamental to our research is to be able to understand and control not only what the system does, but why it chooses to do this. We do this by building an internal architecture that separates out decision making into a very central core. Decisions on which actions to take – whether to move left or right, whether or not to lift something up – are separated from other activities, such as sensing, monitoring and moving. In this way, tools can be developed to analyse this decision making in depth. Developed by computer science experts, this decision-making model links, through engineering sciences, to real applications, and can be exhaustively analysed using state of the art logical techniques, while being of use across a wide variety of autonomous systems, from satellites and unmanned aircraft to sensor networks.

Working in partnership with industry, the VEC provides a range of flexible virtual laboratories and factories, which businesses can access to evaluate emerging technologies and ‘de-risk’ their integration. A two-way exchange between industry and external organisations is vital to accomplish true innovation in this area. Companies are able to build the ‘hardware’ that we can use to test and analyse, rather than building the systems ourselves. In exchange, the University’s research expertise and technology helps companies to build these systems in such a way that they can analyse its reliability and be sure they are always going to operate as they should – effectively, reliably and, above all, safely. //

From battlefield to high street The University’s ambition is to become a key centre of excellence for reliable autonomous systems and to apply our knowledge to a broad range of fields, from aerospace and robotics to manufacturing, logistics, telecommunications and the internet. One major research area is the development of Uninhabited Air Vehicles (UAVs), which have been used for years by the military in particularly dangerous missions. Such technology harbours huge potential for civilian applications, but safety and reliability are paramount. Above all, it must be demonstrated that the core autonomous control will make the same decisions as a human pilot or controller – without the margin of human error. With this in mind, the Centre is collaborating with the North West Aerospace Alliance, which includes BAE Systems and other aerospace businesses, on developing the next generation of such vehicles, with potential for use in a variety of everyday applications. These include security surveillance, motorway patrols, law enforcement support, boundary mapping and even transport. Such development is not without its challenges – the very high costs of such systems, combined with the fact that large fully autonomous vehicles are not yet legal in civil airspace, can make it extremely difficult to verify a system before it is manufactured as hardware. To tackle this, we work closely with the University’s Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) at Daresbury. Their high-fidelity simulation and modelling facilities are able to create a virtual prototype, which can be used as a test-bed and take it through the development and certification phases of the virtual engineering life cycle. The VEC has a unique approach to developing and integrating virtual engineering technology innovations across the product life cycle to deliver powerful solutions to business.

To find out more about the University of Liverpool’s work on autonomous systems, visit: or email:

Professor Michael Fisher is from the Department of Computer Science and the Director of the Centre for Autonomous Systems Technology info

Partners in innovation Current collaborations include ✱✱ BAE Systems (UAV certification). ✱✱ The University of Southampton, the University of Surrey, and National Nuclear Laboratories (reconfigurable autonomous vehicles). ✱✱ European Space Agency and the University of Southampton (autonomous formation-flying satellites). ✱✱ QinetiQ (real-time simulation of air vehicles and network-enabled capacity).

Our strengths Key capabilities include ✱✱ High-fidelity modelling and simulation. ✱✱ Mathematical analysis, formal verification and certification of autonomous behaviour. ✱✱ High-level architectures, programming and control for autonomous systems. ✱✱ Co-ordination and co-operation techniques for multiple autonomous entities; and advanced sensor-fusion and tracking techniques.

The VEC is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and the University of Liverpool

cUltURal RegeneRation // 10

thE powER oF


REvolutIoN dr beaTriZ garcia explains why The liverpool model is a benchmark of excellence for measUring The impacT of cUlTUral iniTiaTives

Realise // 11 The street theatre production Sea Odyssey: Giant Spectacular saw three giant marionettes take to the streets of Liverpool as part of an event commemorating the Titanic disaster


ulture has the power to transform – just look at the scramble of cities competing worldwide to host major arts and sporting events. They recognise the power of culture as a catalyst for social and economic change, and this potential is now at the centre of debate over city-region development. Cultural regeneration initiatives – from the creation of iconic buildings or creative clusters within neighbourhoods are increasingly regarded as a motor for development: creating jobs, attracting tourists and providing opportunities for new investment. Culture also provides a highly effective mechanism for expressing identity, creating a sense of pride, excitement and confidence amongst residents, transforming perceptions of places. In wider social terms, cultural initiatives can bring communities together, encourage greater tolerance and multicultural understanding, and have been proven to have a positive impact on peoples health and wellbeing. In fact, urban interventions that have culture at their heart have some key advantages over other catalysts for investment. They do not just sell the endgame, but help to present a meaningful story, unique to their place of origin, creating a distinctive and competitive package that can attract investors and visitors, and, just as importantly, motivate people to stay who otherwise might leave the city.

Where’s the evidence? Where is the robust evidence to back these claims? Recognised as a national and international centre of excellence on cultural regeneration, the University of Liverpool is dedicated to researching the impact, legacy and wider values associated with cultureled regeneration initiatives. A recent, major research programme hosted by the University was Impacts08, which examined the multiple impacts of hosting the European Capital of Culture in Liverpool. Running from 2005-2010, the project made possible progress in several areas of debate, enabling the University to test a wide range of methodologies. Its value lay in a distinctly holistic approach, which covered not only economic impacts but also wider cultural, social and environmental aspects. The research model developed by the Impacts08 programme, the ‘Liverpool Model’, is now celebrated as best practice for the evaluation of large-scale arts and cultural programmes. It is used across the UK and internationally as a cultural policy impact assessment framework for local authorities planning culture-led programmes, reminding policy makers of the different dimensions are needed to achieve their objectives.

Following on from the work of Impacts08, the University has established the Institute of Cultural Capital (ICC), a strategic collaboration between the University of Liverpool and Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU). This represents a significant portfolio of arts and cultural research shared by academic centres of excellence, including Liverpool School of Art and Design at LJMU and the wide range of schools, centres and institutes represented by the Culture and Creativity Network at the University of Liverpool. On the back of this, the London Organising Committee for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games appointed the University to conduct the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad legacy evaluation; which will inform future priorities for key Olympiad stakeholders such as Arts Council England, The British Council and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad is the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic movements. Featuring programmes and projects inspired by London 2012, more than 16 million people across the UK have taken part in or attended performances since 2008. Our role is to investigate how these opportunities translate into sustainable developments for cultural engagement across the country, while positioning London and the UK as a world-leading creative centre Applying the Liverpool Model has helped to document and assess the event’s hosting process and its impact on the city’s economic, social and cultural aspirations. The research will capture their experiences and provide indicators that make the event more sustainable. We are also observing the networks that have been created to support and deliver the Cultural Olympiad and how they survive beyond 2012. The University’s expertise is relevant to a range of people and organisations, from local authorities, policy makers, cultural and creative organisations, development agencies and tourist bureaus, to the police or agencies involved in city marketing campaigns. The work is equally important to support the health and wellbeing agenda, working with different organisations in the health sector to look into how culture can contribute to people’s quality of life. We are very interested in working with external organisations and in developing platforms for debate with cultural and creative entrepreneurs. In particular, smaller organisations with fewer resources can benefit significantly from our knowledge and expertise. We can play a key role in sharing information, for example, through workshops and online communities, to create a bigger platform that increases the visibility and stability of their work. // Dr Beatriz Garcia is from the Department of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology

For more information, visit: or info

stratified medicine // 12



about medicine Professor Munir Pirmohamed explains how stratified medicine could revolutionise drug prescription

Realise // 13

PHOTOGRAPHS: angus bremner

“We are also beginning to learn more about the molecular basis of diseases, which will allow us to sub-classify them and target treatments more effectively.”


hen a patient is diagnosed with a particular condition, there may be a number of potential drug treatments available. The doctor has a crucial question to answer: which is most suitable? Most drugs are prescribed on the basis of evidence gathered from population studies. Yet these studies do not require a diagnostic test to be performed before treatment starts, nor do they take account of the variability which exists between people due to genetic and environmental factors. In individual cases, age, gender, race, co-existing conditions, kidney function and other drugs that a patient may already be taking will all influence prescription, and these factors will, of course, differ from one patient to the next. But the degree of personalisation is limited – there is no guarantee that a drug will be successful, and a given starting dose of one drug may not have the same effect, if any, in all patients. Worse still, a patient may suffer a side effect from the drug prescribed. While these are usually mild, they can, on occasion, be severe enough to warrant hospital admission. A 2008 study by Compass estimated that the NHS spends nearly £2 billion a year treating patients who have an adverse reaction to prescribed drugs. Work carried out at the University of Liverpool, meanwhile, has shown that 6.5% of hospital admissions are the result of such reactions, while 15% of patients suffer adverse reaction as in-patients.

There is an important question, therefore, about how we can improve the ability of doctors to more accurately determine the correct drug and dose required to maximise its effectiveness and minimise any side effects. Pharmacogenomics is the study of genetic variation on drug response in patients by correlating gene expression or single-nucleotide polymorphisms with a drug’s efficacy or toxicity. It aims to develop a rational means of optimising drug therapy, with respect to the patient’s genotype, to ensure maximum efficacy with minimal adverse effects. These studies have the ability to deliver personalised or stratified medicine; in which drugs and drug combinations are optimised for each individual’s unique genetic makeup. A clear example of where pharmacogenomics has worked well can be seen with the drug Abacavir. Used to treat HIV infections, it causes a severe skin rash in about 6% of patients. If an affected patient is inadvertently reexposed to the drug, it can cause a reaction so severe that the patient can die within a few minutes. A genetic element was identified as a predisposing factor for Abacavir hypersensitivity by three research groups worldwide, this was the first time that an immunogenetic marker had been used in clinical practice to prevent a specific drug toxicity. By testing patients for genetic sensitivity before giving them Abacavir, the risk of reaction could be eliminated. This is something that has actually worked in practice – ­­ the frequency of this hypersensitivity reaction has fallen from about 6% to less than 1%. Not only was this important for cutting the mortality rate but the studies have also allowed the NHS to save money. In addition to pharmacogenomics, we are also beginning to learn more about the molecular basis of diseases, which will allow us to sub-classify them and target treatments more effectively. Asthma, for example, is currently

stRatified Medicine // 14

“The University of Liverpool has a worldleading programme in personalised medicine, with research ranging from biomarker discovery through to application and implementation in clinical practice.” treated as one disease, but it is likely that there are, in fact, many different sub-types of asthma, each of which will respond optimally to different medicines. The University of Liverpool has a world-leading programme in personalised medicine, with research ranging from biomarker discovery through to application and implementation in clinical practice. Its expertise is evidenced by the development of the Wolfson Centre for Personalised Medicine, the University's MRC Centre for Drug Safety Science and the NHS Chair of Pharmacogenetics. The Wolfson Centre for Personalised Medicine houses a multidisciplinary team, with access to state-of-the-art biobanking and genotyping technologies, working with many different research groups across campus, and with NHS hospitals throughout the UK. Its focus is on ensuring that all patients recruited are as accurately phenotyped as possible to ensure that their characteristics – that is, the sub-phenotypes – can be linked to their genetic characteristics. Personalised medicine is also a key theme in the training of both basic and clinical scientists to PhD levels, with the University part of a Marie Curie International Training Network in pharmacogenetics. The institution was also recently awarded a £3 million MRC Clinical Pharmacology Training Programme in collaboration with the University of Manchester, and industry partners – AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and ICON plc. The work in the Wolfson Centre for Personalised Medicine also links seamlessly with ongoing work – with the MRC Centre for Drug Safety Science, for example – where fundamental discoveries in the genetics of immune-mediated adverse reactions are being linked to studies on the immunology of these reactions. Similar work is ongoing with the University's HIV Group and Proteomics Unit. The Centre is also engaged with our Centre for Genomic Research to look at how new sequencing technologies can be used to define

differential responses to drugs. Furthermore, given the spectrum of work being carried out within the Wolfson Centre for Personalised Medicine, there is an important need to develop the clinical evidence, which, in many cases, requires the conduct of clinical trials. Work with the University’s Clinical Trials Research Centre and the MRC Methodology Hub has therefore become an increasing focus of the work.


mong the many different areas the University focuses on are drug safety, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disease, epilepsy, infections, and depression. We have also established a major programme of work in paediatrics – which is vital, given the difficulties in developing medicines for children. Taken together, Liverpool has the critical mass of expertise to discover novel biomarkers, and to evaluate them for their usefulness in many different areas of clinical practice. It is clear that for stratified medicine approaches to succeed there is a need for multidisciplinary expertise. This approach ensures that discoveries in the laboratory can be transferred rapidly to the bedside, and that biomarkers can be developed into diagnostic tests that are easy to implement, access and interpret. To this end, the University has fostered collaborations both nationally and internationally with industry representatives from the diagnostic and pharmaceutical sectors. Potential applications of this expertise range from biomarker discovery, right through to clinical application and implementation. The University can provide help in designing studies, developing a biomarker discovery programme, developing the best study design, recruiting patients and undertaking analysis. We are keen to further develop our collaborations with academia and

Realise // 15

industry – this is going to be instrumental in taking the field forward. It is clear that we need to become much more efficient in terms of drug development in the pharmaceutical industry, and drug utilisation in the field of healthcare, for both the health of the public and wealth of the country. So what are the long-term ambitions in this area? The ultimate aim is that in 50 years’ time we can carry our own genetic codes around with us on a smart card. This could be handed to a GP, who would put it into a computer to instantly ascertain the best available drug for any given condition diagnosed. Clearly there is a long way to go, but the University of Liverpool, with its current expertise and critical mass, is undertaking research that may one day help to realise this ambition. //

ProFiLe: ProFessor Munir PirMohaMeD Professor Munir Pirmohamed qualified in medicine in 1985, undertook a Phd in Pharmacology in 1993, and was appointed consultant Physician at the Royal liverpool University Hospital in 1996. He was awarded a Personal chair in clinical Pharmacology at the University of liverpool in 2001, and in 2007 was appointed the nHs chair of Pharmacogenetics. He is director of the wolfson centre for Personalised Medicine and deputy director of the

MRc centre for drug safety sciences in liverpool. He is also a Member of the commission on Human Medicines and is chair of its Pharmacovigilance expert advisory group.

for more information visit: info research-themes/ personalised-health/

medical diagnostics // 16

 iz Gillies and Howard L Rose of Mast Group photographs: Andy Brown

big impact Small company

We take a look at how collaboration with the University of Liverpool has led to world-leading results for one innovative SME


nowledge is a university’s biggest resource and it’s one worth sharing. Collaborative partnerships enable businesses and universities to share skills, expertise and ideas to produce effective and commercially successful solutions for real-world problems – and these partnerships aren’t just for multinationals. For an example of how forwardthinking smaller companies can benefit from working with the University of Liverpool take Mast Group, an independent manufacturer and supplier of diagnostic products. The bulk of Mast’s work involves developing products for hospital laboratories, enabling them to test for infectious diseases. The company has subsidiaries in France and Germany and markets its products in around 50 countries worldwide, but with 130 employees, it remains within the SME (small and medium-sized enterprises) category of businesses.

Realise // 17

“What’s good about our work with Liverpool is how the relationship has grown and developed and led to new opportunities.” Mast’s relationship with the University of Liverpool began back in 1997, when it became one of the first companies in the UK to receive a grant from the Teaching Companies initiative – the precursor to the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) scheme. Working together with Dr Andrew Jones at the University’s Institute of Integrative Biology, Mast was able to develop a groundbreaking system for reading antibiotic tests. The product enjoyed a very positive response from the medical industry and was awarded a Merseyside Innovation Award. The success of that first collaboration has seen Mast continue to develop its relationship with the University with a project to develop a new testing system for urine infections, again for use in hospital laboratories. “What’s good about our work with Liverpool is how the relationship has grown and developed and led to new opportunities,” comments Howard Rose, Managing Director of Mast Diagnostics Division. “We had a very positive experience with the Teaching Companies project and the success of that led into the KTP project – so it’s a relationship that has really generated innovation.” Urine samples are the most common specimen received by hospital microbiology laboratories but with some larger facilities processing more than 1,000 a day, it’s a labourintensive and potentially costly activity. Working with Professor Joe Spencer, of the University’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Electronics, and KTP Associate Ken Wong, Mast developed a system that would enable large-scale labs to process more samples, using fewer resources and reporting results in half the time. The system is also able to identify the nature of any infection, as well as the most effective antibiotic treatment – saving money on drug prescription and making possible better care. The Mast Uri® System was launched in the UK in September 2011, and internationally in April 2012. It has received significant interest, with hospitals in Leeds, Peterborough and Northampton among those who have purchased the technology. Northampton General Hospital has also prepared a case study for the regional strategic health authority to demonstrate the system’s cost-efficiency.

Mast Group has now embarked on a third collaboration with the University, this time as part of a consortium with Liverpool John Moores University and the Health Protection Agency, to produce a test for chlamydia and gonorrhea for use in genitourinary (GUM) clinics. The project has received a Technology Strategy Board (TSB) grant through the Fighting Infection Through Detection initiative. “At present, when patients at a GUM clinic give a sample, they have to wait from between two days and two weeks to receive the results,” explains Mast Diagnostics project manager Liz Gillies. “With the system we’re currently developing, patients can take a test and receive the results during the same appointment, along with the most effective antibiotic treatment. This ensures any infection is dealt with there and then, eliminating the risk of further spread.” For Howard Rose there is no doubt that the blend of University expertise with Mast’s commercial know-how is a recipe for success. “We’re not a huge organisation, we’re a typical SME that doesn’t have the resource or massive funding from investors, and so we have to be careful that we choose projects which are successful. To do that we need to be focused on where we want to get to and have the right people to help us get there,” he says. “Working with the University reduces our risk and enables us to move projects forward quickly by accessing a level of expertise that would otherwise be unachievable for a company our size.”//

KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER PARTNERSHIP (KTP) KTPs enable businesses with a strategic need to access the University’s expertise to improve their competitiveness, productivity and performance. The scheme, funded by the Technology Strategy Board, involves a high calibre graduate working in a company with academic supervision. This often results in strategic advantages for the company, academic benefits to the University and valuable experience to the graduate. Key benefits ✱✱ Accessing highly qualified people to spearhead new projects. ✱✱ Accessing experts who can help take your organisation forward. ✱✱ Developing innovative solutions to help your organisation grow.

For advice and information about the scheme, contact Dr Andy Jones, Director Merseyside KTP Centre at: business@ info

innovation in chemicals // 18

Unilever's Dr Paul Jenkins says collaborating with Liverpool reaps benefits for both organisations photograph: Andy Brown

Realise // 19

a clEaNER,

BRIghtER FutuRE how The UniversiTy of liverpool is helping Unilever To engineer The nexT generaTion of hoUsehold prodUcTs


ake a trip to the Unilever R&D facility at Port Sunlight Merseyside, and you will discover that more goes into a bar of soap than you might have thought. Motion sensors for example, implanted in an experimental bar of soap, enable researchers to monitor and understand how the bar is being handled and, from this, improve its hygiene benefits. The project is part of a broader initiative aimed at producing more efficient, more sustainable products. It is just one of the kind of research carried out at this state-of-the-art facility, one of Unilever’s six major R&D labs worldwide. In addition to advanced measurement, work is also carried out in structured materials and process sciences, chemical engineering, biosciences and customer perception. This comprehensive research covers all aspects of Unilever’s products in five key areas: haircare, laundry, deodorants, household care and oral care. In fact, Port Sunlight is something of a gem in the history of science. Since the site was founded by the Lever Brothers at the end of the 19th century, it has remained a focal centre for boundary-pushing

research – in 2011, the site earned a blue plaque from the Royal Society of Chemistry in recognition of 100 years’ contribution to science. Among Unilever’s collaborations with institutions around the world, its relationship with the University of Liverpool is one of the most durable, having covered all five key areas over many decades. One current project producing particularly interesting results is focused on the University's Centre for Materials Discovery (CMD). Dr Paul Jenkins, structured materials and process science expertise director at Unilever explains, “We collaborate with Liverpool on a broad front, but the CMD is our biggest single collaboration in terms of size, funding and resources.” Built by the University in 2006, the Centre is focused on applying high throughput (HT) techniques – essentially automation and robotics – to chemistry. “The Centre really came about through shared vision on the part of both the University and Unilever and was inspired by the advances that had been brought about by the automation of pharmaceuticals,” says Paul. “Since then we have had an agreement with the University to use the facility, which has proved to be very beneficial for both organisations.”

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The revolution will be mechanised In less than 10 years, the CMD has helped to herald a new era of chemistry, revolutionising the work of Unilever chemists. “If I took you to see a Port Sunlight chemist 10 years ago, he or she would probably be standing at a lab desk, stirring some ingredients in a round-bottomed flask,” Paul says. These days, CMD's HT methodologies mean that basic mixing work can be undertaken by machines. Where previously chemists might have made one polymer a day, robots can now make up to 200 at a time, freeing up scientists time to focus on more demanding work, such as interpreting data and planning future experiments. The advantages of HT techniques aren’t just linked to savings in time and costs. Using robots also increases accuracy levels by eliminating the impact of human error, while the ability to create many more polymers in a fraction of the time allows Unilever’s chemists to significantly broaden their horizons of exploration. “Previously, we might have been able to make 10 materials over three months, which we could have formulated into perhaps 400 distinct potential products. Now, thanks to the CMD, we can do 200 polymers in that time and make them into something like 10,000 formulations,” Paul notes. So much for the theory, but what about the practice? How is the University helping to produce real world benefits? An important strand of Unilever’s current strategy is its Sustainable Living Plan which sets the target of doubling the size of the company without increasing its environmental footprint. This already challenging task is made even more so through Unilever’s plans to include energy and resources consumed by customers using their products, as well as those generated in the manufacturing and transport processes. One way of tackling the problem is to move towards concentrated products that use less packaging, are cheaper to transport and require less water. Recent research made possible by the CMD has generated polymers able to meet these challenges, requiring less material and able to be used at lower temperatures to produce more effective results. “That’s making a huge impact on the greenhouse gas emissions of our products, but it’s also giving the consumer a better functioning product. So everybody wins,” says Paul.

University of Liverpool, Unilever and AB Sugar, represents a further exciting development. “The idea is to take waste materials from nature, such as orange peel, tree bark, waste from agriculture crops and then to break these down into what are essentially building blocks. They can then be used to make other useful materials, which could be used, for example, in a car dashboard, to structure mayonnaise or deposit moisturising agents to hair and skin,” Paul explains. Refurbishment work to house the bio-refinery is expected to commence before the end of the year and will further cement the strong working relationship between Unilever and the University of Liverpool. So what is it about Liverpool that makes it the ideal partner for Unilever? “First of all it is one of the top 10 ranked universities in the UK for materials science and chemistry, that’s very important to us – we want to access worldleading capability. And because they are based locally, we have that expertise and facilities on our doorstep,” says Paul. “But another thing which is equally important is that we’ve found a group of people at Liverpool with whom we can work very well. It’s not a client-seller relationship, but a real and effective partnership, and I think that’s essentially down to our shared vision.” The benefits of the CMD collaboration are felt both by Unilever and by the University, as Professor Andrew Cooper, founding Director of the CMD, explains “We have been fortunate in Liverpool to have strong support from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the major government funder of basic physical sciences in the UK. The CMD facilities have added much value to our work,” he says. ”The facility enables us to use the rapid synthesis and characterisation facilities to move much faster than we could have done previously. This gives us, and companies like Unilever, a competitive advantage.” He adds: “There are also less tangible benefits of working so closely with research-led companies and that is the valuable picture we get of the forthcoming challenges for chemical-using industries in areas such as sustainability.” So important is the relationship between Unilever and Liverpool that both organisations are hoping to strengthen it further with the formation of a formal, strategic partnership. “Our learning from the CMD project has shown us that by committing to something, both parties get a huge amount out of it,” Paul says. “For us it’s about making sure we deliver better products to our consumers faster, for the University, it’s giving them a fantastic facility to do their research, plus vital insights into the needs of industry.”

"The idea is to take waste materials from nature, such as orange peel, and then to actually break those down into what are essentially building blocks."

From collaboration to partnership One distinctive characteristic of the CMD is its continual evolution, and a recently successful Regional Growth Fund bid to construct a bio-refinery, submitted jointly by the

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Completing the

loop Why is the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy in a unique position to address the global challenges in energy efficiency and sustainability?


ctober 2011 saw the world’s population soar to seven billion. While the figure is testament to the success of mankind, it poses significant challenges for our future – not least in how we meet our growing energy demands. Finite reserves of fossil fuels, combined with the reality of global warming, have ensured that meeting our energy needs in a sustainable way is now at the heart of international political debate.

There is, however, no solution to the ‘energy question’. Instead, there is a series of potential solutions, relating to how we generate, store, transport and consume energy. And these are dependent on innovation across a range of disciplines, from chemistry and physics to materials science, engineering, economics, environmental science and the social sciences. Multidisciplinary working is established as a fundamental principle of research at the University of Liverpool. The University aims to develop real-world solutions to the greatest challenges that face mankind today, by channelling expertise and resources across fields and disciplines.

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Bridging disciplines The Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy was launched in 2010, after the University’s outstanding research in physics and chemistry was evidenced in the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). “Rather than spread the funding across a number of projects in an untargeted way, we wanted to make an investment which puts us into a better position in the future,” explains Institute Director, Professor Werner Hofer.

"We're covering the whole process, from research and theory, through to construction and implementation." The Institute has been conceived as a hub of multidisciplinary expertise, and is dedicated exclusively to promoting sustainable energy provision and use. The first phase of its development has seen the creation of 11 new positions across physics and chemistry and each role has been tasked with tackling some of the key challenges around energy science, including energy storage, photovoltaics and biomass reforming. To house the new team work is underway to develop 2,000 sq m lab and office space. The result is the first interdisciplinary centre with critical mass in energy research in the North West of the UK. While there are a number of centres worldwide focusing on energy-relevant research, many of these are ‘virtual’ in nature. By contrast, the Stephenson Institute is a physical entity, bringing together researchers and making possible day-to-day collaboration with a ‘bespoke’ brief. Working across disciplines is crucial, explains Werner “Think of what goes into a lithium battery. You have lithium, an electrolyte in the middle, and a cathode. Lithium is metal. The electrolytes are mostly polymers, so we’re dealing there with polymer chemistry. Cathodes are very complex inorganic materials, so there we have materials chemistry. There is also theory involved and, to some extent, synthetic chemistry. Then if you want to build this device you go into the realm of engineering. So this project alone covers a huge range of disciplines. “The Stephenson Institute brings together expertise to cover the whole process, from research and theory, through to construction and implementation.” The Institute will also incorporate the University's very strong expertise in materials chemistry, a field essential for the development of new, lighter materials, which could lead to more efficient transportation. Another is engineering, making possible the construction of technologies

based around the Institute’s core research in physics and chemistry. The Stephenson Institute is also working with Newcastle University in a joint bid for a new End-use Energy Demand Reduction Centre (EUED), one of six new centres to be funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Multidisciplinary in nature, the Centre would cover research ranging from the built environment to material design, industrial processes and products, markets and regulation, and organisational and individual behaviour. “If we are successful in our bid we will be able to complete the loop from research right into applications,” Werner adds.


inks are also being established with European partners in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Russia. The Stephenson Institute is also one of seven academic partners of ‘Enermat’ – a European network designed to encourage the sharing of ideas across institutions and disciplines. But collaboration isn’t limited to academia. At the heart of the Stephenson

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Institute’s ethos is the need to make a real world difference and to do this, working with both the public and private sectors is essential. The EUED bid has therefore also entailed the involvement of 10 companies – including Arup, BRE, Balfour Beatty, Mouchel and local construction companies – as well as Liverpool City Council and The Mersey Partnership. “It’s very much a hands-on project and it was important that there’s a partnership of researchers, companies and the local community,” Werner explains. “With the Council on board, we have access to schools, a library and a couple of thousand houses. This enables us to do really large-scale studies, which would be pretty unique.” The Institute is keen to work with industry, and has been working closely with the University’s Business Gateway to build external partnerships with both the public and private sector. These include collaborations with global industries, regional companies, the UK Government, the Technology Strategy Board and the European Commission. The Institute's vision for the future includes exploring further collaborations across the northern universities to create a regional powerhouse of expertise. For Werner and his colleagues, it’s fitting that it should be Liverpool at the heart of this process.

“Liverpool is historically rather independent minded, and has a great heritage in the history of industry. We are really playing a part in recovering that historical place of Liverpool, but this time in the knowledge economy,” he says. “To do that, we have to be at the forefront of things which are important. Energy is definitely one of those areas and the Stephenson Institute has the potential to be one of the top energy centres in the world.” //

The Stephenson Institute is keen to speak to potential partners interested in collaboration. To find out more contact Werner Hofer at: info

Alternatively, for more information on matching academic expertise with industrial needs, contact the Business Gateway at:


AgustaWestland The University of Liverpool has a

world-class reputation in aerospace engineering. Its expertise includes advanced computational fluid dynamics, flight mechanics, control and simulation. Its research is facilitated by extensive laboratory facilities, including two motion base flight simulators and high performance computing clusters. Aerospace engineering requires specific tools that are able to simulate and analyse the complex aerodynamics,

structural dynamics and flight characteristics of new and existing aerial vehicles. The AgustaWestland-Liverpool Advanced Rotorcraft Centre (AW-LARC) is a partnership between Liverpool and AgustaWestland, a multinational manufacturer of helicopters. Its aim is to carry out advanced research and stimulate knowledge exchange.

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“This strategic partnership is re-shaping the way next generation aerodynamic design and simulation will be performed.” JAmes GoDmAN, heAD of AGustAWestlAND uK reseArCh, DeVelopmeNt AND INNoVAtIoN DepArtmeNt


here is a lot more to a helicopter rotor blade than meets the eye. Generating both aerodynamic lift force, which supports the aircraft’s weight, and thrust, which counteracts aerodynamic drag generated in forward flight, modern rotor blades are expected to deliver under demanding conditions. At the same time the production cost PARTNER AgustaWestland must be minimised, whilst lifespan maximised. ACTIVITY TYPE Contract research Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is a ACADEMIC LEAD Professor George Barakos, Faculty of Science and Engineering, School of design tool which uses numerical methods for Engineering, Centre for Engineering Dynamics the prediction and analysis of fluid flows and heat transfer. CFD software is used in a wide range of industries to reduce the need for wind tunnel tests, resulting in lower development cost and fewer prototypes. It also enables the construction of virtual prototypes, which can be analysed of rotor blades to be fully resolved. Engineers to predict performance. The availability of CFD can therefore predict the performance of new simulation data early in the rotor blade design designs before even starting to build a new blade. process allows designers to compare designs, Liverpool’s work is unique as technology transfer predict performance and assess their respective projects of this kind are not common and the merits before construction has begun, leading long-term investment of AgustaWestland is to a better overall product. testament to the importance of its research. AgustaWestland and the University of James Godman, Head of AgustaWestland UK Liverpool work together on a range of active Research, Development & Innovation Department projects, including maintenance and support comments, “The long-term relationship for the CFD solver of Liverpool work on rotors established through the creation of the Advanced with active blade and flow control devices, and Rotorcraft Centre (ARC) is strategically important. investigation of helicopter ditching. There is daily Our knowledge and use of higher-order methods interaction between the two organisations and and tools for aerodynamic analysis and design work with the University’s helicopter multi-block has been greatly enhanced. We are pleased to (HMD) solver is continuous – the University is have the University’s helicopter multi-block responsible for maintaining and enhancing the (HMD) as its main CFD tool providing unsurpassed solver, validating its results and releasing updates analytical quality and design capability for of the code to AgustaWestland. It also trains and helicopter aerodynamics, and more specifically supports AgustaWestland engineers in the use for rotor blades. This strategic partnership is of these tools. reshaping the way next generation aerodynamic CFD is a key tool for AgustaWestland design and simulation will be performed and is since it allows the non-linear aerodynamics a key enabler for future success.” //


BASICS – Saving the lives of newborns The Sanyu Research Unit, based

in the University of Liverpool’s Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, develops low-cost technologies for maternity care and conducts clinical research. It also has expertise in knowledge synthesis – bringing together evidence to produce reports and guidelines.

Its history is in developing and testing products applicable to maternity care with partners and industry. The unit welcomes collaboration with external organisations to develop and test their products in Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, the largest women’s hospital in the UK.

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PARTNER Inditherm plc ACTIVITY TYPE Collaborative research;


intellectual property (IP)

ACADEMIC LEAD Professor Andrew Weeks, Faculty

of Health and Life Sciences, Institute of Translational vidence suggests that leaving Medicine, Women's and Children's Health the umbilical cord intact until at least one to two minutes after birth can be beneficial for newborn wellbeing since Research (NIHR). Intellectual property rights have it assures a continued supply been transferred to Inditherm plc in return for of oxygen. Yet while sick or a payment to a charity fund with each sale. premature babies gain most from this delay, it is Inditherm Chief Executive, Nick Bettles they who most need the immediate attention of a comments “We were delighted to be chosen paediatrician. It is currently not possible for newborns as the industry partner to commercialise the to be properly resuscitated with the cord intact. BASICS concept and have worked closely with the Paediatricians must therefore make a choice between research team to ensure the product meets the taking the baby to the resuscitation unit at the side of demanding clinical needs. The trolley, which will be the delivery room and cutting the cord, or leaving the marketed under the LifeStart TM brand, is an ideal addition to our product range. With an international cord intact at the cost of being unable to resuscitate distribution network covering more than 50 the baby properly. countries worldwide we feel well placed to deliver Such a scenario could soon be a thing of the past and support this exciting innovation.” thanks to the Bedside Assessment, Stabilisation The BASICS trolley won the top award for Best and Initial Circulatory Support (BASICS) trolley. This Innovation in Service Redesign in the cardiovascular small, simplified resuscitation trolley can be used innovation awards category of the Medical Futures alongside the mother and baby even at caesarean Innovation Awards, Europe’s leading showcase of section or forceps delivery and enables the immediate early-stage innovation in healthcare. resuscitation of newborns with the umbilical cord As problems associated with early cord still intact. With a built-in oxygen supply, suction clamping emerge, and neonatal and maternity and heater, it allows doctors and midwives to check guidelines change to incorporate delayed cord for vital life-signs and to provide resuscitation at clamping, BASICS represents an innovative the mother’s bedside while the still attached cord solution that is likely to set a new standard provides the baby with an ongoing oxygen supply of care throughout the world. // and maintains blood volume. Initially designed by a team from across eight universities, the BASICS design was taken forward by Peter Watt, Design Engineer at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospital Trust. Development of the trolley was taken up in 2012 by Inditherm plc which has incorporated the principles of the BASICS trolley into their own-brand neonatal resuscitation platform. It is now being tested clinically at Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust in a project funded by the National Institute for Health

“The BASICS trolley is an ideal addition to our product range and we feel well placed to deliver and support this exciting innovation.”

NICK bettles, INDItherm plC ChIef eXeCutIVe


Mapping Memory on the Liverpool Waterfront The University of Liverpool brings

interdisciplinary strength to the study of Liverpool’s past, especially in fields such as the historic built environment; the histories of print, media, film and music; and the conservation and promotion of archival and library resources. University researchers play an important role in many museum developments, feeding original research directly into wider public dissemination. Recent examples

include exhibitions and collections research in Egyptology; popular and classical music; architecture and public space, film and cinema; slavery studies; and Liverpool history. The University also contributed to several galleries in Liverpool’s prestigious new Museum of Liverpool. Clockwise from far left Bananas being unloaded at the docks; Bunney's department store, 1949; The Liverpool Overhead Railway was promoted as a tourist attraction because of the views of the Liverpool docks; Queen Square market; Edward Dunne, Guinness Brewery stevedore, third from right back, at Salthouse Dock ,1953; the Baltic Fleet pub.


2 Unmarked images courtesy of Liverpool Record Office. 1 Courtesy of Peel Ports Group (MD&HB archive at National Museums Liverpool, Merseyside Maritime Museum) 2 Courtesy of National Museums Liverpool (Museum of Liverpool). 3 Courtesy of National Museums Liverpool (Merseyside Maritime Museum)

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PARTNER Merseyside Maritime Museum (National he streets behind Liverpool’s Museums Liverpool), Re-Dock (Community South Docks were once the film-makers) ACTIVITY TYPE Collaborative research; beating heart of a busy, seaport events, conferences, seminars and exhibitions; public engagement and policy advice ACADEMIC LEAD Dr Graeme city. Shops, industries, small Milne, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, School businesses, bars and boarding of Histories, Languages and Cultures. houses all thrived, many connected in some way to the work of the port. This changed with the closure of A broad collection of memories and images has been the South Docks and with successive recessions gathered through oral history interviews and public mapping in the 1970s and 1980s which had a significant workshops, along with filmed recollections of spaces and impact on the city. buildings, often prompted by archive photographs. Some ‘Mapping Memory on the Liverpool Waterfront’ is participants were interviewed on location, bridging past and a collaboration between the University of Liverpool and present visions of the city. These recollections were plotted National Museums Liverpool, bringing together urban onto an interactive map on a specially constructed website, to historians, museum curators and film-makers to work inspire visitors to investigate further the history of Liverpool. with the people of the city. Its aim has been to record A 40-minute documentary about the project, made by the recollections of those who lived or worked in the Re-Dock, can also be viewed online. area during these years of dramatic change. Memories, The project has brought academic history and museum impressions and opinions are hugely valuable, but expertise together to work with the public, crossing both individuals remember things in different ways, and museum and university boundaries to reach a wider everyone has a different story to tell. Together these community. It has enabled the building of relationships form part of a rich tapestry of Liverpool history and life. with communities that were not previously engaged with either the museums or the University, and provided additional research capacity and expertise that complemented that of the museum. It has also demonstrated a collaborative model that could readily be extended to public history and heritage projects more generally. “Collaborative research projects such as Mapping Memory are critical in underpinning the core public outputs of the museum with new and cutting edge research. To combine the academic excellence of the University of Liverpool with the mission of National Museums Liverpool to produce the best possible public history is an ideal approach,” comments Rachel Mulhearn, Director, Merseyside Maritime Museum (National Museums Liverpool) “This particular project has resulted in a completely new set of data which will enable the museum to further understand and interpret collections. In addition, the methodology deployed, that of community engagement, is hugely important in connecting societies with their intangible heritage.” //

Mapping Memory was funded by the Arts & humanities research council (Ahrc) as part of the Beyond text research Programme

info 3

Visit the interactive map on: maritime/research/mappingmemory

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Dave Adams “There’s an opportunity here to do great things,” says Dave Adams, a materials research chemist at the University of Liverpool


ave Adams loves his job. Ask him about ambitions and career paths and he answers politely, but it is the day-to-day science that really fires him up. “I find it so exciting,” he says. “It’s exactly what I want to be doing. My ambitions are purely science based. I want to do work that no one else is doing, and to produce the best-quality, highest impact science that I can.” Dave works in the University of Liverpool’s Department of Chemistry, focusing on research into soft materials and porous solids. After four years working at Unilever, he wanted to return to academia because, for him, the thrill of science lies in working on the fundamental principles. “Liverpool is an inspirational place to live and work,” he says. “The chemistry department is very strong and contains exceptional research groups. When you see what other people around you are achieving, it drives you on in your work.” Dave is currently working on two fields of research. On the soft material side he and his team are exploring the controlled production of gels. “We’re trying to make materials with a very high water content,” he says. “The aim is to create materials with controlled properties, which is harder than it sounds. We take small molecules

“You just don’t get these things anywhere else – I find it really exciting.”

and carry out a process so that they line up into these fibres in a solution. That makes a sort of net that traps water to make a gel. Our work is about trying to control how the molecules make those fibres.” This research could eventually help in drug delivery and cell growth. In terms of porous solids, Dave is looking to develop solid materials capable of gas uptake. “You want the right surface area to absorb the gases and the right size of holes to control which gases are taken up and which aren’t,” he says. In a power station, for example, these materials could potentially be used to trap carbon dioxide as it is released. One of the big attractions for him lies in working with experts such as Professor Andrew Cooper and Professor Matt Rosseinsky. “Being able to speak to these guys and get a steer is very useful,” he says. Access to the Centre for Materials Discovery (CMD) at the University has also transformed the way that Dave and his colleagues are able to work. “The CMD gives us access to quality robotic equipment and high throughput synthesis that allow us to do many, many reactions at one time,” he says. “You can analyse a lot of material more quickly than you‘d be able to do sequentially.” Dave worked with one student on a research paper that was produced within two months, when it would have taken over a year to gather the data normally. “You just don’t get these things anywhere else,” says Dave. “I find it really exciting. There’s an opportunity here to do great things.” //

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Electron microscopy

All in the detail Autumn 2012 will see the launch of a new project, which aims to open up the field of electron microscopy to north west SME’s


ecent developments in electron microscopy have made possible significant advances across the fields of science and engineering. Now a new venture by the University of Liverpool aims to boost research, innovation and jobs by bringing the benefits of electron microscopy to small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the North West of England. Funded jointly by the European Regional Development Fund and the University of Liverpool, the Nano Investigation Centre at Liverpool (NiCaL) is a regional centre for excellence in microscopy. It provides regional SMEs access to state-ofthe-art instrumentation, together with experienced analysts and material scientists. Its aim is to improve their productivity and competitiveness by linking them to technology and expertise that will improve product and process design. Electron microscopy uses a focused beam of electrons in place of light, enabling samples to be magnified up to around 20 million times actual size without loss of definition. It has commercial applications across a range of sectors, including advanced manufacturing, bio-sciences, medical equipment manufacture, and environmental and energy technologies. Zinc oxide nanowires for piezoelectric sensors grown at Liverpool by CVD

Among the specific benefits of electron microscopy are the shortening of development cycles for new products; improved failure analysis and quality control; earlier identification of tooling wear; and identification of contaminants at a smaller scale. Products which rely on nanotechnology – from catalysts to thin coatings and semiconductors and nanotechnology-based drug delivery – will also benefit from the ability to characterise components and interactions right down to the atomic scale. In fact, electron microscopy can add value to almost every manufacturer. SMEs are often unable to reap the benefits because of its prohibitive cost – with commercial rates running up to several thousands of pounds per day – and a lack of awareness of its potential

benefits. NiCaL has been established to remedy this by sharing the University’s expertise. “We have some of the world’s most advanced and powerful equipment, with expertise that enables the transfer of knowledge to industry,” explains Professor Gordon Tatlock, NiCaL Director. “Regional SMEs which fabricate a physical product and wish to improve these and their processes can contact us for free advice and support. We will also be extending a series of one-day workshops, explaining what electron microscopy can bring to industry, into a broader outreach programme”. He adds: “Our principal aim is to support SMEs by helping them access this technology so that they can innovate and grow, and hopefully create jobs.”

Regional SMEs looking to benefit from this facility can contact the Technical & Industrial Liaison Manager at: info


Showcasing examples of research innovation and industry collaboration at the University of Liverpool.