Sussex EPSRC Capital Award in Support of Early Career Researchers

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sussex
Department Name: Research and Enterprise Services


Flexible electronic devices are essential for the future development of electronics including sensors for the internet of things fabricated on cheap large area polymer substrates, or unobtrusive monitoring systems for personal smart assistants and telemedicine equipment. At the same time, they cannot be fabricated using standard fabrication techniques, this is because of the chemical and physical properties of deformable substrates. The proposed printer will enable us to deposit and simultaneously structure conductive and insulating materials to realize sensors and active devices on arbitrary substrates. support many ongoing Early Career Researcher activities. This includes the deposition of strain sensitive conductors on textile fabrics or free standing for some recently awarded projects from EPSRC and from industry.

The main piece of capital requested in this award is an Aerosol Jet HD printer which enables us to create high density Electronics packaging and devices with 20-micron resolution. 3D printing mechanical parts is now an established industry process that has changed the way the automotive, aerospace and medical industries work. However, printing functional elements such as sensors and switches are still untapped with many research and exploitation opportunities. The investment in this state-of-the art electronic 3D printer would be of enormous benefit to a range of Early Career Researchers across the university supporting many of their activities. This includes the deposition of strain sensitive conductors on textile fabrics or free standing for some recently awarded projects from EPSRC and from industry.

The new equipment will be aligned to and managed by the University's new Sussex Programme for Quantum Research. The programme provides a network promoting interdisciplinary collaboration and exchange across multiple Schools within the University. Our goal is to bring together excellence in computational fabrication, metamaterials, printed electronics, nano-, photonic- and quantum-technologies and functional material science to fundamentally transform the research and industry landscape. The availability of world class laboratories containing unique and cutting edge instrumentation such as the printer described above is a key driver to attract and retain the next generation of world class research leaders.

The impact of the acquisition can be directly linked to every single researcher and to specific elements of their research plans. All the named researchers involved are highly recognised scientists, with excellent research outputs for their career level. As there is no duplication with current resources, the acquisition of the equipment directly translates in an augmented capacity.

Planned Impact

Our equipment will empower ECRs to carry out world-leading research at Sussex. Below we highlight some of the anticipated impact to ECRs and we explain how we can monitor and evaluate the impact of the investment. We consider both short-term and long-term impact.
Individual Career Development: The investment will help several ECRs across two schools at the University of Sussex to pursue research that would otherwise be difficult to do at Sussex. For example, the investment would allow Dr. Munzenrieder to create active printed electronics that would allow him to establish collaborations with groups from ETH and MIT. This would have an immediate impact on his research career and in establishing Sussex as a destination of choice for such research collaborations. We can identify similar career enhancement impact from this investment on all the ECRs identified in the case for support. The co-investigators will ensure that there are no roadblocks to ECRs use of this investment. This would be manged as outlined in the case for support using a central booking tool called LabAgenda and giving ECRs VIP priority. This will enable a smooth pathway to the career development of ECRs. The University will monitor the impact of this investment by monitoring the career trajectory of the ECRs. For example, how many ECRs are submitting to prestigious fellowships (such as ERC or Future Leaders fellowships), how many new research fellows and staff are incoming to Sussex to join the teams of these ECRs (through EPSRC fellowships, JSPS or Marie-Curie schemes) to pursue research that uses this investment. We will further explicitly instruct our staff to acknowledge this EPSRC funding in any publications that uses this investment - giving us a further ability to monitor the effectiveness of the investment in generating research output.
Building a Community: Besides the advancement of the career of individual ECRs, the unique impact of this investment is how it would foster a dynamic and vibrant community of ECRs who are all pursuing unique research using this investment. This would inevitably foster collaboration and help Sussex to develop an ECR driven research program that is cross-disciplinary and world-leading. This would be a long-term impact of the investment. To proactively foster this community the co-investigators will create a mailing list of users and hold regular informal seminars and meetings of the user to share with each other how the investment is being used and identify 'Best practises'. We will monitor community building through multiple mechanisms such as the popularity of the meetings (how many people usually attend these meetings) and how many joint research publications or funding bids are won that use this investment.
Engaging with the Local Industry: The investment would be extremely timely as one of the ECRs (Dr. Memoli) is just about to start his UKRI innovation Fellowship. Dr. Memoli will be able to more effectively and actively engage with the local industry. This will help us develop industry relations that benefit both from the investment and from the related research areas of all ECRs at Sussex. For example, Dr. Memoli could invite relevant industry partners to our regular meetings (as listed above). Industry engagement beyond the initial contact will be managed and fostered through our Innovation Centre. Through the innovation Centre we will also actively promote the existence of this facility within the local industry (through tours of our facility and promotional leaflets distributed through Wired Sussex). The Innovation Centre through its business development mangers will also act as first point of contact for industry with an interest in creating new products or prototypes with this investment. Besides some of the monitoring mechanisms outlined in the other sections, we will specifically look at how industry relations evolve in the form of Innovate-UK funding submissions and impact case-studies.


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