New Prosperity Partnerships projects that link research with industry unveiled

Seven new Prosperity Partnerships projects that will build links between the UK's research base and leading industry partners such as AkzoNobel , AstraZeneca, Google, Rolls-Royce, Tata Steel, and Weir Group, plus small-to-medium enterprise, Oxford PV will be unveiled today by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) at Prince Philip House, Carlton Terrace, London. This EPSRC £20.4 million investment has leveraged in £16.8 million from industry partners and a further £4.9 million from universities.

Prosperity Partnerships are EPSRC's flagship approach to co-investing with business in long-term, use-inspired, basic research. They are five-year, multimillion pound research collaborations on topics of national and global importance which have been co-created by leading UK universities and businesses with a strong research presence in the UK.

Now in its second year of investment, Business partners are vocal in the value they place on this approach and the co-construction of the collaborative research programmes enabled by EPSRC. Partnerships from the first round are seeing additional foreign investment from the business partners to strengthen relationships even further.

From a UKRI perspective, the programme is making an important contribution to achieving Government's aspiration of investing 2.4 per cent of GDP in R&D by 2027. This is not only through the initial investment from business but through acting as a gateway for businesses to derive impact from the new knowledge in internal R&D programmes.

The projects cover a wide range of activities and processes that include developing:

  • a virtual factory approach to steel production - led by Tata Steel
  • new materials for solar panels - with Oxford PV, a SME
  • new coatings and paints that are more sustainable - AkzoNobel
  • new bio-catalysts for use in the production of medicines - with AstraZeneca
  • quantum simulation and software development to harness the power of quantum computing - led by Google
  • high-fidelity virtual simulation of a complete gas-turbine engine during operation - partnering with Rolls-Royce
  • new well stimulation technology that could improve the exploitation of subsurface energy sources - led by Weir Group

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC's Executive Chair said: "Our first round of Prosperity Partnerships are proving a great success. They are bringing universities and industry together and applying the creative energies of both to engineering and scientific challenges. Our next round of Partnerships covers a broad range of fields and has, on top of EPSRC's £20.4 million investment, leveraged in £16.8 million from industry partners and a further £4.9 million from universities. We are confident that these projects will deliver real benefits to all their partners and help the UK research, discover and innovate."

The new projects map to four of the Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges (ISCF) , involve nineteen industry partners and ten universities, and will fund 50 studentships.

Professor Michael J Kearney, Provost & Executive Vice-President of the University of Surrey and Chair of the peer review panel, said: "The panel were very impressed by the overall quality of the proposals under review, which demonstrated existing strengths in University-Industry collaborations as well as exciting, cohesive and innovative plans to move these forward at pace. The work that will be supported is testimony to the strength and breadth of the research base in the UK and the attraction of the Prosperity Partnership scheme."

Project summaries:
Prosperity Partnership in Rapid Product Development
Tata Steel & Swansea University - led by Professor Martin Brunnock (Tata) and Professor Stephen Brown
The Tata Steel and Swansea University Prosperity Partnership will take a radical virtual factory approach alongside scale-up activities to enable the creation of new materials invention and processing. This co-delivered research will have the capability of transforming the steel innovation cycle and reducing screening times by a factor of 100 creating a vibrant 21st century steel manufacturing industry, feeding a diverse supply chain operating in multiple sectors.

Strategic Partnership in Computational Science for Advanced Simulation and Modelling of Engineering Systems - AsiMoV
Rolls-Royce and University of Edinburgh - led by Dr Leigh Lapworth (Rolls-Royce) and Professor Mark Parsons
This Rolls-Royce and Edinburgh University Prosperity Partnership will seek to develop the next generation of engineering simulation and modelling techniques, with the aim to develop the world's first high-fidelity simulation of a complete gas-turbine engine during operation. This level of simulation will require breakthroughs at all levels and uniquely combines fundamental engineering and computational science research along with two high tech SMEs to address a challenge that is well beyond the capabilities of today's state-of-the-art.

Prosperity Partnership in Quantum Software for Modeling and Simulation
Google and UCL - Dr Eric Ostby (Google) and Professor John Morton/ Professor Simone Severini.
The Google and UCL Prosperity Partnership combines leading developments in quantum processor hardware with world-class expertise in quantum algorithm development, as well as end-users for the exploitation of quantum software applications. Quantum simulation is anticipated to be the first major application of quantum computers, this partnership will develop the essential algorithms, verification tools and benchmarks needed to realise the power of quantum simulation, combining state-of-the-art quantum processor hardware with deep expertise in quantum software, creating the first international collaboration between Google and academic partners in quantum computing.

Centre for Biocatalytic Manufacture of New Modalities (CBNM)
AstraZeneca, Prozomix and The University of Manchester - led by Dr Bill Moss (AZ) and Professor Nicholas Turner
This AstraZeneca, Prozomix and The University of Manchester Prosperity Partnership will bring together their expertise to design and develop novel chemical manufacturing technologies, based upon engineered biocatalysis, with the aim of producing new complex therapeutic molecules.

Achieving this goal will require the generation of a new toolbox of biocatalysts that are able to catalyse particularly demanding transformations.

This project has the potential to bring new medicines to patients, in addition to developing more sustainable manufacturing processes that reduce the impact on the environment.

All-perovskite multi-junction solar cells
Oxford PV and University of Oxford - led by Dr Christopher Case (Oxford PV) and Professor Henry Snaith
This Oxford PV and the University of Oxford Prosperity Partnership will bring together pioneering academic and industrial leaders in perovskite photovoltaics. Research of the underlying materials, science and technology will enable the development of the next generation of multi-junction perovskite solar cells. This will go beyond the current state-of-the-art technology, to deliver over 37 per cent efficient triple junction perovskite solar cells.

Sustainable Coatings by Rational Design (SusCoRD)
AkzoNobel and The University of Manchester - led by Dr Simon R Gibbon (AkzoNobel) and Professor Stuart Lyon
The AkzoNobel and The University of Manchester Prosperity Partnership will take a game changing approach for the paint industry; and for the first time, connect a detailed scientific understanding of the mechanisms of coatings failure with state-of-the-art machine learning to deliver a design framework for the optimisation of protective coatings and nanocomposite materials. This will underpin the rapid-to-market development of environmentally sustainable coatings by rational design.

Smart Pumping for Subsurface Engineering
Weir Group and University of Strathclyde - Led by Mr Alan Bickley (Weir) and Professor Zoe Shipton

This Prosperity Partnership between Weir Group and Strathclyde seeks to establish a step change in the technology employed to access, stimulate and prepare subsurface energy resources. This industrially inspired, but socially responsible, research is designed to deliver the foundations of a new well stimulation technology that uses numerical modelling, sensing and advanced mechatronic control to enable a precise, targeted, 'pulsed stimulation' process that has the potential to create a step change in productivity and reduce environmental impact.



The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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