EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Functional Materials: The BCFN

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Physics


The Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials (BCFN) is an EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training at the forefront of
creative graduate training, equipping students to meet global grand challenges. The BCFN focus is to produce the highest
quality students capable of designing, measuring and understanding advanced functional materials from their fundamental
components, to their real-world applications. This is achieved by breaking down the traditional boundaries of chemistry,
physics, biology and engineering, and providing training in a highly creative, adaptive and flexible way.
Functional materials, and their characterisation, are vital to the UK economy, and are found in a very diverse range of
application sectors including medicine, energy, food and coatings, in a wide range of high value products and are key to
fundamental aspects of science. Understanding materials across all length scales and application areas is pivotal to our
success - there is therefore a clear need for highly-skilled graduates, and an understanding of materials across all length
scales is pivotal to our success. The global market for advanced materials is predicted to be $957bn by 2015, and we are
committed to providing cohorts of skilled scientists who can lead innovation in both academia and industry.
Our approach is to embed the training program into every aspect of the student experience. This means that the students
receive the strongest possible scientific foundations through taught courses and research projects but also develop a fully rounded set of skills, including communication, team working, entrepreneurship and creativity. We have a proven track
record of excellence in graduate training and have pioneered innovative tools where the needs of the student are at the
core. These have included new online learning tools, a mixture of short- and long-term research projects to promote choice
and a wider research experience, and intense involvement with industry which allows students to be exposed to "realworld"
problems, ensuring that their creativity is always directed towards finding solutions.
We have an extensive expert network of supervisors who deliver the training, whilst collaborating to create new research
areas. Our network has more than 100 academics from 15 departments across four faculties at the University of Bristol, aswell as industrial partners. This ensures that the BCFN research and training can adapt to the changing needs of both the
UK and global demands for materials. Our centre is located at the nexus of funding council priority areas, and has
studentship support (3 p.a.), staff funding, and dedicated space support from the University.
From 2014, we will build on our strong foundations and evolve our training. Our links with industry will be strengthened
further and via our Bristol-Industry Graduate Engagement (BRIDGE) program we will build sustainable, long-term research
platforms to ensure a true benefit to the economy. We will take our successful training model and create a distance learning
platform which can be used by partners overseas and in industry through innovative e-learning. We will run
summer schools with these partners to expand the training experience for both BCFN students and partners alike. We will
continue our extensive public engagement with schools, the general public and policy makers, ensuring that at all stages
we communicate with our stakeholders and receive feedback.
We have a strong student-focussed management team to ensure quality and delivery. This team, composed of a Director,
Principal, co-Principal, Teaching Fellow, Industrial Research Fellow and Manager, and a wider Operational Team drawn
from our core departments of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, represent a wide range of research experience from Fellows
of the Royal Society to early career fellows, covering a range of strengths in functional materials with proven leadership
and research track records.

Planned Impact

The Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials (BCFN) will strengthen its position as the leading UK Centre for Doctoral Training in the design, characterisation and exploitation of functional materials, with a community of more than 50 students and 100 researchers across the Physical Sciences, Engineering and Life Sciences of the University of Bristol. In delivering impact, the key underpinning strength of the BFCN programme will be in the training of truly adaptive interdisciplinary scientists, able to facilitate both fundamental and applied knowledge in academia and industry, and engage in stakeholder dialogue on all levels.
The International Scientific community: The research output of the BCFN community is already internationally-leading.
From 2014, the BCFN will lead the setting up of an International Nanomaterials Network of global centres with the BCFN as
the hub. As our partners attest, this network will achieve a sustainable impact of shared student activities, training, and joint supervision of research, with all the associated benefits of citations and mobility. It will enhance individual BCFN students' effectiveness and employability.
The UK science community: Our ongoing development of online modules, the BCFN Portal, and skills tracking tools will
have a major impact. As the statements from Springer-Verlag and Learning Science Ltd. demonstrate, we will extend and
commercialize these tools, transforming them into a graduate online training resource, enhancing the training of scientists
in advanced techniques for materials internationally. The UK research base in material science will be a major beneficiary
of the BCFN activities. The BCFN has promoted interdisciplinary research projects in a broad range of topics ranging from
functional materials for energy conversion, catalysis and medicine, to the physics of life. To deliver impact in these crucial
areas, the BCFN will engage with other CDTs, research hubs and grand challenge networks.
University of Bristol: The University of Bristol is setting up the Bristol Doctoral College (BDC). This development has arisen,
in part, through the leadership and innovation of Dr. Terry McMaster, BCFN Director. We are actively reshaping the nature and extent of graduate training, particularly in the skills domain, across the academic spectrum of Bristol.
Industrial Partners: The impact of BCFN research activity is proven by the wide range of companies (SME to multi-national)
who are making cash and in-kind contributions: Syngenta, AstraZeneca, HP, BASF, LMAT, Sasol, Heinz (see Statements
of Support). Our future impact, as judged by industrial partners, will range from employees, co-creation of training modules,
co-publications, short-term consultancy work, to full studentship support. Strategic impacts include a framework IP
agreement (HP and the University of Bristol), and the use of the BCFN BRIDGE scheme to unlock future research
framework funding (see Syngenta and Sasol statements). We will continue to employ our Industrial Training Modules
and look to roll out both this and the BRIDGE model. The BCFN Industrial Research Fellow provides a unique conduit for industry, and will ensure that the BCFN has impact as a solution provider across time scales. The IRF will coordinate our outputs with KTNs, TSB, and iNets to maximum effect.
Societal Impact: From 2014, we will build sustainable strategic partnerships with regional school networks, in addition to
ongoing student activity. As Dr. Paul Hill confirms in his Statement of Support, we are poised to be a hub for best practice,
and to train students, school teachers and pupils to influence public opinion in the arena of functional materials.


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