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Securing The Future


A major new tranche of funding is announced today by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). These, the first awards in the Science and Innovation Awards programme will directly build the UK’s research base in diverse areas.

The initial recipients include energy research, physical organic chemistry, statistics and electronics. Future awards will focus on other research areas. In a changing research landscape, as undergraduates choose new options, more traditional core subjects are encountering declining numbers of entrants. This in-turn affects the base of academic staff in our universities, which impacts on the nation’s capacity to produce the well-trained people and research leaders of tomorrow. In particular there are a number of strategic areas that are particularly at risk and the programme of Science and Innovation Awards has been introduced by EPSRC to address this issue.

Professor John O’Reilly, Chief Executive of EPSRC, said: “We are taking action now to secure our position for the future in some key research areas that are at risk and yet crucially important to the UK economy and to the well-being of science more generally. However, the Science and Innovation Awards must be recognised as but the first of many steps that will be required to reverse the situation.”

EPSRC in partnership with the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), and the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC) will fund 5 major programmes with a value of over £19 million. Sir Howard Newby, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said: “As new industries develop and traditional industries become ever more knowledge dependent HEFCE is committed to sustaining and developing research capacity in key strategic areas of science and technology. I am very pleased to share this commitment with EPSRC and SHEFC through the Science and Innovation Awards programme.”

Commenting on the allocations, Roger McClure, Chief Executive of SHEFC, said: “SHEFC are pleased to partner the EPSRC and HEFCE in the Science and Innovation Awards programme. This initiative should help to counter potential decline in research capacity in key strategic disciplines in the UK of importance to the knowledge economy, and Scotland is rightly part of this effort.” The projects will create centres of excellence in their respective fields under the leadership of a principal professor. The recipients, and total funding figures are:

Cardiff University - £4.1 million to reinvigorate the area of Physical Organic Chemistry, which has wide applications in industry and consumer products through the study of molecular chemical processes. Through the establishment of an international research centre with a programme of applied research, Cardiff University will provide trained scientists for UK industry, and consolidate chemistry as an academic discipline in Wales. Innovation and global collaboration are at the forefront of the project led by Professor Graham Hutchings.
University of Glasgow - £4.2 million to create an Electronics Design Centre to advance the area of electronics and electrical engineering. The Centre will establish a purpose built laboratory and recruit academics to deliver cutting-edge research that will enable new systems to emerge from nanoelectronic, optoelectronic and bio-electronic technologies. The Research Centre will address the increasing need to combine these diverse technologies for biomedical, environmental, safety and communications applications. Led by Professor David Cumming, the centre will also promote excellence in teaching and research training in electronics design.

University of Nottingham - £3.5 million of funding to expand innovation in chemical engineering and chemistry. The aim will be to stimulate the academic supply chain and promote chemistry to young people, and to place the partnership between chemical engineering and chemistry at the forefront of industry and learning through an academic and industrial collaboration programme led by Professor Martyn Poliakoff. The focus of the project is green, sustainable chemistry and process engineering. The objective is to develop chemical and engineering tools and techniques at all scales from "the molecule to the mixer".

University of Strathclyde - £3.8 million to focus on future trends in power technology, notably with a sustainable energy integration theme. An international research programme will investigate low carbon power, efficient national grid systems, power supply resource management and future sources. Led by Professor Jim McDonald the project will feature academic and student posts, and work with other universities in a collaboration programme with international partners.

University of Warwick - £4.1 million to set up a new centre for statistics research in the UK. Post-doctoral and PhD programmes will see 3 new permanent academic posts, 5 post-doctoral positions and further PhD studentships. This will reinforce the discipline of statistics under a new research programme and its application across many areas of science and technology. The unit, led by Professor John Copas, will create a focal point for statistics and run an outreach programme extending to school level with the aim of addressing the serious lack of capacity in statistics research in the UK.

Natasha Richardson | alfa
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