University of Exeter - Core Capital 2019

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Biosciences


The University of Exeter has an excellent track record of supporting capital equipment on research grants submitted to EPSRC and other Research Councils and has developed internal processes to ensure high-quality applications are submitted to the EPSRC's Strategic Equipment Process (SEP). Our SEP portfolio is currently £5.4M. This Core Equipment Award provides an excellent opportunity to invest in core equipment at Exeter to support the long-term competitiveness of our EPSRC-research portfolio.
Our strategy for the allocation of funds was to run an open call for expressions of interest based on the criteria provided by EPSRC: Underpinning multi-user equipment; Invest to save; and Co-location of equipment. The scale of the institutional award, £270k, allowed us to consider a breadth of proposals that would not be appropriate for an SEP and have a broader user base than would be expected on standard grants. The opportunity was made available to our full EPSRC-facing community.
A specially convened panel, following an internal call selected 5 items of equipment that will support a broad range of users, underpin science of national importance and that fits with the strategic direction of the host departments.

Planned Impact

The University of Exeter's EPSRC Strategy Group (SG) panel, selected a suite of investments that covered research in engineering, computing science, and physical sciences. The collective impact of this award will benefit a wide range of researchers.
The Strategy Group will monitor the set-up of these items and organise an annual showcase event to promote the new equipment and the access points for researchers to get involved. As part of the annual reporting, the Strategy Group will ask for user stats and look for case studies to be developed and shared on the University's website. Experience shows that the promoting of sharing is best supported at the local level, each item has a Principle Investigator to oversee this.
The impact for each item has been articulated in the Pathways to Impact and the academic beneficiaries section, highlights are summarised below:
E1. Structured illumination microscopy for fast volumetric imaging
This equipment will support disciplines across physics, engineering, and the biosciences, with an interest in optical microscopy techniques, investigations of biological and synthetic nanostructures. Of specific relevance to the Physics of Life and Healthcare Technologies themes is the need to understand the temporal behaviour of excitable tissues such as the brain and heart.
E2. Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) cluster for Isca
GPUs vastly surpass traditional CPUs by performing calculations in a massively parallel way. They have become essential for new data science algorithms for handling large amounts of data and for "deep" neural network architectures: recent "breakthroughs" in AI have used GPU clusters and algorithms that could not run in practicable times on conventional computers. This equipment will benefit the AI and machine learning communities. In addition, GPUs are widely used in simulations and the solution of partial differential equations, e.g. flooding, continuum mechanics, molecular dynamics, etc: an Exeter cluster will thus enable new research across the remit of EPSRC.
E3. Wide-Area Nano physical vapour deposition (PVD) system to enhance advanced solar cell fabrication and materials growth facilities
The Exeter user groups solar, marine and mining reflect the impact areas this equipment will have by providing a materials fabrication facility that will complement their specific testing and characterisation techniques. The equipment will accelerate solar energy and energy storage research, through the development of new materials to enhance energy conversion and energy storage efficiency.
E4. Controlling multistability in vibro-impact systems: theory and experiment
The equipment will underpin research that aims to develop control strategies for improving system performance and energy efficiency. Impact will in Non-Linear Systems, Control Engineering, Structural Engineering, Robotics, and Water Engineering. Examples include energy harvesting for structural health monitoring.
E5. New pump laser to extend the lifetime of multiphoton system
Current research in biomedical physics and biomedical engineering uses multiphoton microscopy systems such as this to understand the structure and physical properties of biological tissues and cells in health and disease, including the degeneration of intervertebral disc, the progression of osteoarthritis and the response of tumour cells to immunotherapies. Maintaining the multiphoton system at Exeter with this new laser will allow this research to continue and expand into EPSRC research areas such as 'Biophysics and Soft Matter Physics', 'Assistive technology, Rehabilitation and Musculoskeletal Biomechanics' and 'Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering'.


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