Multi-User Equipment to Refresh Underpinning Analytical Capabilities at the University of Warwick

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Vice Chancellors Office


Our ability to rapidly and routinely obtain information about the composition, structure, morphology and function of molecules, materials and devices produced by man or by nature is central to many advances and breakthroughs in the Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPS). Therefore, the main aim of this proposal is to replace and upgrade obsolete or near end-of-life underpinning, multi-user equipment within our mass spectrometry, microscopy and device characterisation Facilities/Research Technology Platforms (RTP), to ensure that researchers at Warwick (UW) have access to a state-of-the-art Analytical Science (AS) infrastructure. UW's long-term excellence in AS is firmly rooted in strategic investment (e.g. people, equipment, infrastructure, training, etc.) in this underpinning field. The AS equipment requested includes:

1) Four instruments for our Mass Spectrometry (MS) Facility, including an Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer, Gas Chromatography Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer, MicroTOF Focus and 3D ion trap Mass Spectrometer, which will increase both our analytical capacity and level of sensitivity.
2) Three core workhorse microscopy devices from within our RTP programme: including a Transmission Electron Microscope, Atomic Force Microscope, and confocal Raman; allowing us to increase both our core analysis capacity through higher speed imaging, and improved image resolution.
3) A Parameter Analyser and Probing System to be hosted within the University's Power Electronic Characterisation suite (PEATER), to enable both greater processing capacity and the analysis of devices at higher voltages and currents.

The proposed AS equipment will be used to facilitate and strengthen a wide range of EPS research at UW, that falls within EPSRC's strategic remit and is comprehensively aligned to the research strategy of the University; contributing to core themes within the University's 'Global Research Priorities' (GRPs) including Energy, Innovative Manufacturing, Science and Technology for Health, and Materials. The new AS equipment will underpin the research of >50 academic groups from across four key departments (Chemistry, Physics, Engineering and WMG) within the Faculty of Science, working in diverse fields, including: catalysis, chemical and synthetic biology, energy materials, manufacturing, medical imaging, nanoparticles, nanocomposites, polymer materials, power electronics, semiconductors, structural engineering, synthetic organic and coordination chemistry.

This investment in state-of-the art equipment will also be fundamental to facilitating the training of many M-Level undergraduates, MSc and PhD students, and early career researchers in cutting-edge AS techniques. Each Facility/RTP has well established programmes of user training and support, and these are open to all UW student and staff users. This training will also be offered to external academics and industry partners.

UW is committed to ensuring that the equipment requested is effectively managed and maintained, and that usage is maximised across the University and by external research partners. The equipment will either be managed through shared Facilities (MS and PEATER), or through the appropriate RTP (Electron Microscopy and proposed Optical Spectroscopy) to which UW has provided significant investment. Overall, UW's contribution to its RTPs totals more than £8.84M (staff, equipment, maintenance and consumables) since their inception in 2014. Access will be advertised internally through the GRPs, and externally through Warwick Scientific Services (WSS) - a centre of excellence based at UW, delivering cutting-edge world class scientific services, technical measurement solutions, innovative translational research, and knowledge and training services to businesses that could benefit from expertise and instrumentation. It will also be listed on, a national equipment sharing portal.

Planned Impact

This proposal will provide equipment that underpins a diverse portfolio of research in the broad field of Analytical Science (AS) across the Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPS). Impact will be immediate but sustained over the long term, and will take place in the wider context of the research activity at UW; leading to benefits for a wide range of non-academic groups, including industry, the public sector, schools and the public. UW's on-going commitment to developing its provision and management of equipment through its recently developed "Research Technology Platforms" (RTPs) will ensure the items of equipment have an average lifetime of 10 years. Business plans are in place to ensure that equipment is maintained and regularly upgraded, so benefits continue into the future. A wide range of individuals and projects will benefit from these new facilities and their impact will be gauged through well-established methods.
INDUSTRY PARTNERSHIPS: All of the items of equipment will be used in collaborative projects with industry (see CfS & LoS), where they will enable aspects that are currently precluded due to the age, throughput and sensitivity of the equipment to be replaced/upgraded. Efficiency and enhanced capacity for the AS enabled will lead to accelerated delivery of results. Warwick Scientific Services will facilitate businesses in commissioning contract research using our analytical facilities. The proposed equipment will enhance our attractiveness to potential partners and we anticipate new commercial collaborations as a result. Key industrial sectors to benefit will include aerospace, chemicals, materials, electronics, energy, manufacturing, healthcare, pharmaceuticals and transport. We will continue to run targeted training courses for interested industrialists.
ENHANCED SKILLS & TRAINING: This proposal will have a significant impact on current/future early stage researchers at UW who will take their additional expertise into their future careers. The new investments will facilitate the "hands-on" training of the next generation of EPS scientists, including M-level, MSc & PhD students, as well as post-graduate researchers, on state-of-the-art equipment; combining this with complementary training in experimental design and data analysis will ultimately strengthen researchers' employment prospects, especially those moving into industry careers.
ENHANCED RESEARCH CAPABILITY: The most immediate impact will be on the research capability and the research programmes being undertaken. The replacement and upgrading of equipment will lead to the enhanced generation of results and hence accelerated publication rates and other forms of dissemination and exploitation in areas of strategic importance for the University and EPSRC, and of national/international importance. Economic impacts in the following EPSRC Challenge Themes are likely: Healthcare Technologies (discovering new therapies, understanding mechanisms of disease, repurposing existing drugs, drug delivery and nanomedicine), Manufacturing the Future (supporting chemicals industries, advanced materials, sustainable processes, utilising waste), and Energy (smarter energy control/usage, renewable energies and low energy chemical processes).
OUTREACH PLANS: The equipment will be used in laboratory/department tours, student placements and work experience. All departments involved have a programme of work experience that typically takes place over the summer. The equipment will be used in University outreach activities to the benefit of school children locally. UW outreach officers will encourage more students to consider careers within the EPS, and will support local schools in their effective teaching of Science and Engineering. In terms of wider benefits to the public, this will be realised through accelerated outputs from researchers using the equipment, and impact in areas such as improved healthcare technologies, pharmaceuticals, energy storage & new materials.


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Description This equipment grant enabled the refresh of equipment that is essential in supporting the research carried out at Warwick. This spans multiple disciplines including physics, chemistry, engineering and manufacturing. Users range from final year undergraduates to experienced principle investigators. It is available for other institutions and industry to access.
Exploitation Route The equipment supported research that has resulted in scientific publications available for the research community and potentially patents that can be commercialised. The instruments have also been accessed by external companies to provide enhanced knowledge in their R&D work and solve problems in manufacturing processes.
Sectors Chemicals,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology