A UK Magnetic Resonance Basic Technology Centre for Doctoral Training (UK-MRBT-CDT)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Physics

Abstract

Our vision is to create a distributed CDT that unites the strands of magnetic resonance (MR) technology funded under the EPSRC Basic Technology (BT) Programme that accounted for more than 10% of the funding in this programme. We will create a world-leading combination of expertise, infrastructure resource and training. Furthermore this vision seeks to capitalise on the BT investment by developing MR technology to have real and lasting impact on UK science and industry. The UK has an outstanding and continuing record of contributions and advances to many aspects of MR research and technology. UK-based companies (e.g. Oxford Instruments, Magnex (now part of Agilent), Cryogenics, Bruker UK, Thomas Keating) using highly trained staff with higher degrees (e.g. MSc, PhD) have pioneered world-leading MR technology, much of it emerging from UK universities. The letters from our industrial partners are absolutely clear about the need for an increased supply of MR researchers trained to PhD level with a broad perspective of the field to maintain the UK's position at the forefront of the development of MR technology. MR methods are firmly established as a primary analytical tool in chemistry, are increasingly influential for characterisation in materials science and have revolutionised medical imaging. Despite the great success of MR there is huge demand to push the boundaries through increasing the sensitivity, resolution (spectral and spatial) and speed of the technique. The technologies involved include fast, high power and versatile electronics, signal detection and processing, high frequency/power sources, cryogenics, micromechanics, sample environments and pulse sequences. These drivers, the range of technologies involved and strong, integrated industrial involvement make the field an ideal research training ground for our PhDs and ensure wider BT impact. The CDT will provide impetus for further cross-collaboration in the UK MR community, with the projects jointly supervised across partners. Our vision centrally fits this CDT call by exposing students to multiple, but synergistic BT concepts around MR. Although the physical principles of the different branches of MR, i.e. nuclear (NMR), electron (EPR) and imaging (MRI), are fundamentally related, conventional 'isolated' PhDs associated with one specific MR topic often miss the connection and broader picture of the field. This CDT will bring new dimensions to the training of a cohort of UK PhD students in MR including acquiring the background skills for creative exploitation of their research. PhD projects centred on developing MR technology will have multidisciplinary impacts
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through extending the range of application of MR techniques. The MR instrument market (certainly worth many hundreds of millions of pounds globally) continues to show strong growth as evidenced by the annual reports of the leading companies and by their projected forecasts of rapid expansion. Hence the already identified need along with the potential growth amply demonstrate the demand for trained people in this area. There is a strong fit to national needs in priorities aligned to RCUK, industry and more broadly. Increasingly there are national concerns about critical mass and improved sustainability through shared services/infrastructure. The demand for very expensive state of the art equipment in MR to compete internationally will require more coordination and joint planning between the leading groups and this CDT can play a central role in this. Specific areas of MR technology where training will be provided and also further developed through the research projects of the students are: (i) MR Pulse Sequence Technology (ii) Cryogenic Magnetic Resonance (iii) Advancing pulsed Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (iv) Beyond conventional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (v) Dynamic Nuclear Polarisation enhanced NMR

Planned Impact

A CDT is first and foremost a training activity and the PhD students will benefit from a uniquely diverse and thorough education in the whole family of magnetic resonance (MR) technologies and their applications, specific PhD project training, and the wider skills training offered by the CDT and partners.
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Companies manufacturing, developing and selling MR equipment, will benefit through targeted collaborative R&D with universities leading to innovative and accelerated technology development; eight such companies are already project partners. The development of MR technology directly impacts on the wealth of the nation through sales of advanced MR equipment and other industries through its application. The UK is currently the world-leader in superconducting magnet manufacture, and excels in the development and exploitation of MR; this situation will only be sustained through the provision of technically trained, academically able and creative postgraduates. Users of MR in analytical and R&D applications will benefit from the greater sensitivity and resolution enabled through technological advances in MR techniques, increasing the reach and exploitation of MR in the pharmaceutical, materials, foodstuffs and biomedical fields. In healthcare, MRI is arguably the greatest advance in diagnostic medical techniques over the past century. Today the societal benefits are immense since MRI is exploited in virtually all clinical disciplines, but with advances in contrast, resolution and sensitivity it could help many more patients. The CDT students will benefit from the research and training to become rounded scientists and technologists who are able to contribute to technological developments in MR and lead interdisciplinary research and development projects. The scientific and transferable skills training, and the extensive network of contacts each student will acquire will ensure they are attractive to employers in both academic and industrial environments. We will of course publish the results of our research in leading scientific journals, at international conferences, through the CDT website and via a variety of internet audio and video techniques (iCasts, PoDCasts) and press releases. We have worked closely with commercial partners to get them directly involved in the engagement and training. Building on this the CDT will hold annual workshops to which participating companies will be invited and from which they will gain new knowledge through the PhD research projects, enabling the creation of new products, services and, in some cases, markets. The Centre will enable more joined up and efficient collaboration between universities, MR companies and users, greatly strengthening the impact. The PhD students will all have placements at companies or international laboratories to widen their experience, take on ambassadorial roles in outreach activities to inform both our target audience and the public. Several of the academic partners already have formal collaboration agreements in specific fields with selected industrial partners. If not already existing PhD tailored project collaboration agreements will be put in place between the industrial partner and universities working together on that project. Mechanisms for exploitation will be covered in the individual project agreements between the participating parties and will be driven by the Technology Transfer Offices at the individual institutions. We will teach and encourage the culture of proactive IP capture as well as disseminating world leading research. All individuals involved in the CDT have extensive experience in deriving impact from their research, be that through academic dissemination, industrial and user engagement, and outreach. All are committed to be actively involved, and actively involve their students in impact activities. All resources required to achieve our desired impact

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