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Five new industry–academia partnerships aim to develop transformational technologies

From improving ultrasound techniques in cardiovascular surgery to hypersonic flight, the Royal Academy of Engineering has announced five new joint industry–academia research partnerships that will address some of the complex engineering challenges facing society.

With a focus on industry-relevant research across the full range of engineering disciplines, the Academy’s Research Chairs and Senior Research Fellowships scheme enhances the links between academia and businesses with each of the prestigious five-year positions co-sponsored by an industrial partner. Each awardee will establish a world-leading research group in their engineering field.

Commenting on the appointment of the three new Research Chairs and two Senior Research Fellows, Professor Karen Holford CBE FREng FLSW, Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University and Chair of the Academy’s Research Committee, says: “These awardees illustrate brilliantly how expert engineering researchers, when partnered with industry, underpin the success of UK engineering research and innovation. The kind of work we are seeing illustrates why government has demonstrated such confidence in the economic value of our sector through its Innovation Strategy.”

The Research Chairs and Senior Research Fellowships appointed are as follows:

Research Chairs

Professor Dan Brett, University College London
Horiba MIRA & NPL / Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair in Metrology for Electrochemical Propulsion

Electric mobility is one of the fastest-growing industries on the planet and is essential to meet the UK government’s legally binding commitments on climate change, including a ban on new diesel and petrol car sales by 2030. There is a seismic shift away from conventional piston engine powered propulsion to electrochemical solutions such as batteries, fuel cells and supercapacitors. This Research Chair will develop measurement tools to support this fundamental change in the way vehicles are powered.

Collaborating with Horiba MIRA and the National Physical Laboratory, Professor Brett’s research aims to make the UK a world-leader, both scientifically and commercially, in metrology for electrochemical power systems.

Professor Adrien Desjardins, University College London
Echopoint Medical / Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair in Clinical Translation of Optical Ultrasound Imaging

Professor Desjardins’ research aims to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular patients by developing all-optical ultrasound imaging probes for real-time visualisation of tissues and medical devices from inside the body.

A multidisciplinary, collaborative effort between University College London and Echopoint Medical, this project will focus attention and stimulate connections across many fields, including optics, ultrasound, materials science and medical device design, thereby creating a knowledge base to speed up the translation of future biomedical sensing innovations.

Professor Wladek Forysiak, Aston University
EFFECT Photonics / Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair in Highly Integrated Coherent optical fibre Communications

With increased home-working and greater requirements for mobility via 5G and other access technologies, Professor Forysiak is committed to developing new advances in photonic integration to increase digital communications capacity. His research aims to build on the ‘system-on-chip’ photonic integration technology developed by EFFECT Photonics to develop new transceivers, transceiver arrays, and entire multi-channel optical fibre transmission systems.

By reducing the cost and power requirements of these components, sub-systems, and systems, this project will contribute to a more sustainable society and a greener future by providing greater bandwidth, serving our ever-increasing reliance on remote communications for work, education, health and well-being, social life and entertainment.

Senior Research Fellows

Dr Liliana de Lillo, University of Nottingham
ITT Industrial Process / Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Research Fellow in Advanced Embedded Motor Drive technologies to reduce global energy consumption

The world needs more energy but there is also a global drive to reduce carbon emissions. Innovative technologies are required to achieve this, and the electrification of multiple sectors such as automotive and aerospace is gathering pace. 28% of global electricity is used in industrial motors, of which 85% are run at full speed and use mechanical systems to regulate the output, which is wasteful. Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) technologies allow these motors to run at an optimum speed. While very significant savings can be made using VFD technologies they require a clean, temperature-controlled environment and expensive filters and cables to connect to the motors. Installation costs are prohibitively expensive and typically take many years to recover.

In collaboration with ITT Industrial Process, Dr de Lillo’s research focuses on Embedded Motor Drives, where the VFD is integrated into the motor so that only a direct replacement of an old motor is necessary in order to reduce energy use during the manufacturing process, as well as the amount of raw materials needed. Her innovations will ensure that the through-life energy losses are minimised, resulting in reduced running costs and CO2 emissions.

Dr Matthew McGilvray, University of Oxford
MoD / Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Research Fellow in Hypersonic Aerothermodynamics

High-speed flight has opened up new possibilities for humanity, underpinned by the grand engineering achievements of the 50s and 60s, when manned space flight was pioneered by the US and the USSR. The vision of this fellowship is to deliver a step change in UK capability to design and develop domestic hypersonic vehicles that can fly at over five times the speed of sound or 4000 miles per hour.

Hypersonic flight is a key component of the MoD’s future technical and capability strategy and it is vital that the UK is able to bring together academia and industry in both the civil and defence communities in order to achieve it. This fellowship will expand the capability and experimental techniques of the Oxford hypersonic wind tunnels and use them to investigate the key fundamental physics of aerodynamics, thermal management and high-temperature thermochemistry.

Notes for Editors

Research Chairs and Senior Research Fellowships aim to strengthen the links between industry and academia by supporting exceptional academics in UK universities to undertake use-inspired research that meets the needs of the industrial partners. Awardees are expected to:

  • Establish or enhance a world leading engineering research group
  • Deliver ‘use-inspired’ research that meets the needs of their industrial partners
  • Disseminate the outcomes of their research for appropriate academic impact
  • Become a self-sustaining research group by the end of the award (by securing substantial external grant income: RCUK, EU, industry, charities, etc.)

The Royal Academy of Engineering is harnessing the power of engineering to build a sustainable society and an inclusive economy that works for everyone. In collaboration with our Fellows and partners, we’re growing talent and developing skills for the future, driving innovation and building global partnerships, and influencing policy and engaging the public. Together we’re working to tackle the greatest challenges of our age.

Media enquiries to: Pippa Cox at the Royal Academy of Engineering Tel. +44 207 766 0745; email: [email protected]

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