Small items of research equipment at the University of Strathclyde

Lead Research Organisation: University of Strathclyde
Department Name: Research and Knowledge Exchange Services


The focus of research in universities such as Strathclyde is increasingly aligned with meeting the needs of society in key areas such as energy, health, manufacturing, the environment, and advanced science and engineering. In addition to helping produce innovative solutions to major challenges in these areas, universities are charged with developing the skills and experiences of early career researchers (ECRs), from PhD students to new academic and research staff, to ensure that our future research leaders have the knowledge and abilities to contribute as effectively as possible to the well-being of our society and its citizens.

In meeting these obligations, it is essential, especially in science and engineering, that the equipment base available to our ECRs is appropriate to the task and is of the highest quality. The availability of large and often expensive instrument facilities is crucial to ensuring that research in UK universities is world leading. To complement these advanced experimental facilities, improvements in the number and quality of small items of equipment can have a major impact on productivity, and the quality and quantity of research outputs. In addition, it can help to promote the early impact of research outputs in industry and society.

The University of Strathclyde has identified where additional small equipment resource would have a major benefit to ECRs working on projects in a range of topics under the general themes of energy, healthcare technologies, manufacturing, environmental sustainability, information and communication technologies (ICT), physical science and engineering. The equipment will enhance the training of PhD students in topics of national importance, extend the scope of the research achievements of our Research staff, and accelerate the progress of new Academic staff and their ability to become future research leaders of the highest quality. The items of equipment that we have identified will improve our capabilities and make significant contributions to research outputs in a range of projects.

For example, in Manufacturing, research into techniques in nano materials and analysis associated with two areas of healthcare, will be transformed by removing delays in accessing equipment and extending the range of operations that can be conducted by ECRs. This will bring benefits to the modelling, development, manufacture and application of nano-structured materials, for carbon capture, environmental remediation, and sustainable chemical feedstocks, and provide enhanced capability in medical device and prosthetics manufacture, and in the development of micro-fluidic and lab-on-a-chip techniques for small scale specialist bio and medical materials manufacture.

In Environmental Engineering, the new items of equipment will extend research on crucial aspects of environmental monitoring and control, including ground aperture sealing for carbon capture and nuclear waste disposal, rock and soil permeability monitoring and control, and the development of new land/water remediation techniques for cleansing of organic species.

In Engineering Asset Management, the proposed equipment will open new opportunities for the ECRs researching combustion and emission diagnostics and efficiency improvements in gas turbine engines and power generating equipment. Benefits in this theme will also be realised for ECRs developing imaging technologies for the food and drink, and pharmaceuticals industries. These are just some examples of the areas of research that will benefit from the enhanced equipment resource at Strathclyde. Similar benefits and advances will be achieved in the fields of Energy, ICT, Lasers and HealthCare Technologies.

Planned Impact

Impact on Academic Excellence: Early career researchers bring novel ideas and diverse approaches. Enhancing their work by provision of upgraded or wholly new equipment drives the research within established, successful groups across the University. Additional laboratory apparatus can greatly speed the feedback loop between hypothesis and experiment, and deliver more robust investigations. Scientific excellence will be enhanced if our ECRs can be given the very best facilities with which to pursue their own, original work. We already operate equipment databases and these are currently being streamlined and extended to enhance equipment sharing and to maximise the lifetime value and accessibility of all of our assets.

Impact on Career Development (whether in Academe or Industry): Access to the equipment outlined in the application will significantly improve the skills and experience of a generation of our leading early career researchers. They will be thus be better equipped to advance their careers internationally, through providing them with greater opportunity to collaborate across disciplines and with industry, reducing bottlenecks caused by lack of equipment, allowing them to pursue new lines of research and to generally increase their productivity through targeted deployment of specific pieces of kit.

Impact on Industrial Partners: Our EPSRC portfolio over the last 10 years includes over 400 grants, where Strathclyde leads (hosts the PI), and 4 times this when our participation as Co-I is included. Awards have been spread evenly across EPSRC's programmes, and there is a range of ongoing impact generating activities aligned to these. As well as underpinning the research of a number of ECRs across various EPSRC programmes, the increased equipment resource at Strathclyde will have a beneficial impact on a wide range of industrial and public sector organisations with which we collaborate. Strathclyde has an excellent track record of working with industry: 60% by value of our EPSRC awards involves cash/in kind contribution from partner(s) from industry or commerce, and 15% of our annual research income (£30M) comes directly from industry. Many of the ECRs who will gain from the extra facilities work in groups that have extensive external engagement; including PhD students with Industrial Case support. The enhanced research capabilities outline in the Case for Support will accelerate the delivery of impactful research relevant to energy, healthcare technologies, manufacturing, environmental sustainability, information and communication technologies (ICT), physical science and engineering. The highlighted research areas involve collaborations with a broad range of partners who will welcome the enhanced research output the reinvigorated equipment base will generate. The list of companies includes the Weir Group, Rolls Royce, GSK, AstraZeneca, Croda, DSTL, Chemring, British Salt, Genzyme, Syngenta and many more. Furthermore, companies and public sector organisations will also see an impact of the proposed activities through the improved skills and training that the extended equipment based will provide to Strathclyde PhD students once in employment, or through internship periods during the students' projects.


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