A new £7 million centre at the University of Leeds will lead UK research in manufacturing advanced chemical products.
The Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Complex Particulate Products and Processes will fund 50 new research students in a field that has been targeted by the Government as a key growth area for the UK economy.
"Advanced formulated chemical products are worth more than £200 billion a year to the UK economy and are used in a wide range of sectors, from advanced drugs and protecting crops through to the toiletries we use," said Professor Simon Biggs, of the University of Leeds' Faculty of Engineering, who led the bid. "Our centre will be working across the whole supply chain, whether that's discovering new materials, getting these things on the manufacturing line or delivering them to consumers."
The new facility is one of 22 new CDTs announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt. Hon George Osborne MP, in Manchester today (March 28, 2014). Government money, allocated by the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC), will provide more than half of the centre's funding, with the remainder coming from the University and industrial partners.
Companies backing the CDT include the multinational consumer goods company Procter & Gamble (P&G), agrochemical developer Syngenta, petroleum additives manufacturer Infineum and major drug companies including GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and AstraZeneca.
Professor Biggs said: "This is not just about researchers sitting in their labs formulating clever materials. One of the problems in research is that a molecule might be ideal in theory but it may be impossible to manufacture it at scale and at a cost that can be supported by the market.
"We are going to be training researchers who can see the whole picture. An engineer looking at manufacturing problems will need to understand the limitations and restrictions of the chemist. The chemist will need to engage with the production line and the market. They will work in cross-disciplinary teams. The focus is on developing people who can go out there and continue the UK's leadership in this field."
One key area of work is "micro encapsulation," which allows active ingredients in products such as drugs, agrochemicals, foods, cleaning products and toiletries to be better targeted.
"Think about chemotherapy. It kills cancer cells but it also kills off a lot of good tissue. If we can encapsulate those active ingredients on the micro-scale, so that they are only released on the cancer cells, we could give you a lot less drug and be better at targeting the cancer. We might also be reducing the cost of the drug because we need a lot less active ingredient," Professor Biggs said.
Other applications include micro capsules that slowly leak active ingredients in pesticides, protecting a plant over an extended period, or micro-packages that preserve active ingredients in cleaning products so that they remain effective after months in the supply chain.
"A Malteser is an 'encapsulated' piece of honeycomb. Our honeycomb might be a drug, an agrochemical, something in your shampoo or an additive to your engine lubricant," Professor Biggs said.
The CDT will involve academics from the University's School of Process, Environmental and Materials Engineering, School of Mechanical Engineering, School of Chemistry, School of Design, School of Food Science and Nutrition and Leeds University Business School.
Research students are expected to be recruited from backgrounds including chemistry, physics, material engineering, product engineering and product design.
The first cohort of 10 PhD students will start work in October.
The CDT in Complex Particulate Products and Processes webpages are available at http://www.engineering.leeds.ac.uk/particulate-products.
Professor Simon Biggs is available for interview.
Contact: Chris Bunting, Senior Press Officer, University of Leeds; phone: 0113 343 2049 or email email@example.com.
For information about the national CDT scheme contact the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Press Office, phone: 01793 444 404 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes for Editors
The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK and a leading research powerhouse. It is a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. http://www.leeds.ac.uk
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK. http://www.epsrc.ac.uk
Centres for Doctoral Training are one of the three main ways by which EPSRC provides support for Doctoral Training. The other routes are the Doctoral Training Grant and Industrial Case Studentships. It is anticipated that much of the need for doctoral students in many areas will continue to be met by the DTG and ICASE, which together make up more than 50 per cent of EPSRC's current spend on studentships. CDT students are funded for four years and the programme includes technical and transferrable skills training as well as a research element. The centres bring together diverse areas of expertise to train engineers and scientists with the skills, knowledge and confidence to tackle today's evolving issues, and future challenges. They also provide a supportive and exciting environment for students, create new working cultures, build relationships between teams in universities and forge lasting links with industry.
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