Public Release: 

EPSRC announces £138 million investment in research-business partnerships

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

Two major investments in research partnerships that will strengthen the links between the UK's research base, industry and business partners will be announced today, Thursday 13th July, by Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science.

Both investments show the pivotal importance of engineering and the physical sciences to the country's continued development as a global research and innovation leader.

The first investment is a new initiative, a set of Prosperity Partnerships, which will receive £31 million of government funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). This will be matched by a further £36 million from partner organisations in cash or in-kind contributions, and £11 million from universities' funds, resulting in a £78 million investment.

These will be launched at 18.00 hrs at a special event at BT's HQ, 81 Newgate Street, London EC1A 7AJ. News and picture editors are invited to send a reporter/photographer - For further information and accreditation contact the EPSRC Press Office on 01793 444 404 or email

Ten universities will lead on 11 projects that range from the future networks for digital infrastructure to offshore wind and they will partner with businesses operating in key areas of the innovation landscape. These include household names such as Siemens, BP and Unilever and also firms like M Squared Lasers that are leading in areas such as advanced photonics.

Jo Johnson, Minister for Universities and Science said: "A central part of our Industrial Strategy is boosting the economic impact of our world-class research base by supporting the flow of innovative ideas and techniques from concept to market-place.

"This investment will ensure the work of our universities continues to have positive impact around the world and maintain the UK's global leadership in science and innovation."

Professor Nigel Titchener-Hooker, Professor of Biochemical Engineering at UCL, who chaired the panel that approved the Prosperity Partnerships projects, said: "The Partnerships awards are a further demonstration of EPSRC's vision in creating exciting opportunities for industry and academia to work together on strategically significant problems. The quality of the applications we reviewed was outstanding and demonstrated strength of vision, relevance and a determination to pursue long term collaborative research. The breadth of applications too speaks to the diversity of UK industry and to the alignment between the UK's very best academic teams and our industrial base.

The grants promise to create a series of exciting avenues of research leading to industrial implementation. It's a wonderful new example of how, in partnership, we can harness our collective capabilities to strengthen our economy and once again underscores the importance of ongoing investment in the HE research base."

Jonathan Legh-Smith, Head of Partnerships & Strategic Research BT Technology, Service and Operations, said: "BT is very pleased to host the launch event for the EPSRC Prosperity Partnerships today. Having close links with the UK's research base has proved highly valuable to us, and many other companies operating across the economy. Collaborations between business, academics and funders, such as EPSRC, are vital to delivering impact from our world-class research. We believe the Prosperity Partnerships programme is a strategic opportunity to build on those collaborations and make a significant difference to the future prosperity of the country."

The second EPSRC investment is £60 million for 33 universities to advance their Impact Acceleration Accounts (IAA). These allow institutions the flexibility to operate tailored schemes that help increase the likelihood of impact from their research. The IAAs speed up the contribution that scientists make towards new innovation, successful businesses and the economic returns that benefit the UK.

Professor Philip Nelson, Chief Executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council said: "If innovation is an ecosystem then it is dependent on having a fertile soil of research and the fresh air of ideas to nourish its growth. These new EPSRC Prosperity Partnerships and IAA investments will provide the right conditions in which new technologies and products can be developed more quickly. In turn, this will return social and economic benefits and ensure the UK continues to be one of the best places in the world to research, innovate and grow business."

The IAAs' aims are to promote movement between universities, businesses and other organisations; to support the very early stage of turning research outputs into a commercial proposition; improve engagement with businesses, government and third sector to sow the seeds of new collaboration and more strategic engagement, and reach out to researchers who do not normally engage in exploitation activities and driving culture change within the university.

The flexibility within each IAA means that different universities support activities in different ways, in line with their own unique needs and opportunities.

The eleven Prosperity Partnerships projects are:

University Lead business
& business partners University partners Project title
grant reference Description

University of Exeter QinetiQ
The 'Tailored Electromagnetic and Acoustic Materials' Accelerator (Team A)
A collaboration to develop new materials and technologies that can control the propagation of electromagnetic (eg radiated heat, light, radiowaves) and acoustic (sound, vibration, shock) energy in a highly tailored, bespoke fashion, solving real-world problems.

Lancaster University BT
University of Surrey
University of Cambridge
University of Bristol
Next Generation Converged Digital infrastructure (NG-CDI) EP/R004935/1
Developing new data-driven methods and technologies for the resilient, autonomic digital infrastructure of the future.

University of Southampton Rockley Photonics
Rockley Photonics and the Silicon Photonics Group at the University of Southampton EP/R003076/1
Rockley Photonics and the Silicon Photonics Group at the University of Southampton are developing a new integrated photonics platform for mass markets. Disruptive photonic integration at the chip level will impact networking technology in data centres, enable new consumer devices and provide robust sensing solutions all at dramatically lower cost and power requirements.

University of St Andrews M Squared Lasers
M Squared Lasers - University of St Andrews Biophotonics Nexus EP/R004854/1
Developing a new suite of ultra-compact super-resolution microscopes for pathology and disease management.

University of Sheffield Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy + DONG Energy
Durham University
University of Hull
A New Partnership in Offshore Wind EP/R004900/1 Address the challenges of both the current and future generations of wind turbine (WT) technology in such a way that a chain of critical issues regarding availability and reliability of such structures will be explored and solved.

The University of Manchester Unilever + Process Systems Enterprises Ltd
STFC Laboratories
The Centre in Advanced Fluid Engineering for Digital Manufacturing (CAFE4DM) EP/R00482X/1
Developing a new modelling approach to enable a significant reduction in conventional physical experimentation.

University of Bristol Thales
Thales-Bristol Partnership in Hybrid Autonomous Systems Engineering (T-B PHASE) EP/R004757/1
Designing new processes that guide the engineering of hybrid systems with embedded autonomy.

University of Warwick
Jaguar Land Rover
Brandauer Holdings Limited
Dynex Semiconductor
ST Microelectronics
The science of high performance electrified propulsion. EP/R004927/1
Addressing emergent challenges in vehicle electrification through a unique collaboration to grow scientific understanding.

University of Nottingham
University of Oxford
Imperial College London
Strategic Partnership in Mechanical Integrity for Advanced Propulsion Systems EP/R004951/1
Meeting the challenges of high power density mechanical systems under extreme power levels and in safety critical environments.

The University of Manchester
BP Imperial College London
University of Cambridge
University of Edinburgh
University of Leeds
Preventing Surface Degradation in Demanding Environments EP/R00496X/1
New insights into the surface degradation of materials under demanding environments by harnessing advances in computer modelling, atomic level experimental techniques, in-operando imaging and characterisation, and by accessing previously untapped in-field data sets.

University of Strathclyde Babcock International
EDF Energy
Kinectrics Inc
Bruce Power
The Weir Group BAM Nuttall Imperial College London
University of Surrey
Cranfield University
The Alan Turing Institute
Delivering Enhanced Through-Life Nuclear Asset Management EP/R004889/1
Advanced inspection techniques, biotechnology solutions for infrastructure repair and engineering application tuned data science will create new products and processes for through-life management and lifetime extension of critical assets.

Examples of successes from previous IAA projects:

Sponge power

H2GO Power, a University of Cambridge spin-out company formed by Dr Enass Abo-Hamed and Professor Oren Scherman, developed a safe method for hydrogen production and storage.

It is based on a hybrid smart material capable of behaving like a 'sponge', which catalytically produces and stores hydrogen gas at room temperature and atmospheric pressure, and only releases the stored gas upon heating.

The technology was developed by Enass through her work as a doctoral student in the Scherman research group. She went on to be named as one of three European finalists in Cartier's 2015 global Women's Initiative Awards.

H2GO Power estimates that fuel cells using its technology will have five times the energy capacity of current battery technologies, and will be suitable for numerous applications, from mobile phone chargers to electric aircraft.

The company is piloting a plug and play unit in Nigeria for use in buildings such as hospitals, enabling them to continue functioning during black outs.

Bedside diagnostics

Lancaster University scientists are developing a portable bedside blood diagnostics device in collaboration with eBiogen Limited and clinicians from Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

The device takes pinprick samples of blood and is able to provide rapid chemical analysis in less than a minute, compared to the many hours it takes to send samples for analysis at hospital laboratories.

The technology, part-funded through an IAA, promises to improve treatments for cancer patients, post-operative care and monitoring of the health of babies in the womb.

Scanning power

A next-generation X-ray scanner being developed with IAA funding at Cranfield and Nottingham Trent universities is predicted to lead to a revolution in security in the aviation sector. Unlike conventional systems, the scanner can identify the presence of hidden explosives or illegal drugs in milliseconds.

The technology, developed by a team led by Professor Keith Rogers, was the fortuitous but inadvertent outcome of previous EPSRC-supported research. A second tranche of IAA funding was recently obtained to further the medical diagnostics aspect of this work.

A spin-out company, Halo X-ray Technologies Ltd, is developing the technology, which has the potential to be exploited commercially across a range of applications, such as for patient bone density measurements for and for the assessment of production line processes.

A nation that destroys its soils

Dr Karen Johnson, from Durham University, is using IAA funding to build on EPSRC-supported research into the regeneration of brownfield land using sustainable technologies that can clean up contaminated land.

The project will showed how iron-rich mineral by-products (such as ochre) and compost can be used on the brownfield site, to immobilise contaminants and enhance soil structure to provide greater water holding capacity, and increase soil erosional resistance amongst other benefits. This has considerable implications for flood resilience, and the collaborating partner, Northumbrian Water Limited has co-funded the proof of concept project.

Dr Johnson was recently supported by the RCUK Global Challenge Research Fund to apply her research to African cities using similar waste materials from both the water industry and the mining industry. Here enhancing soil structure can help smallholder farmers deal with both drought and floods.

Water radar

Dr David Harris-Birtill and Mr David Morrison, from the University of St Andrews, are using their IAA to further develop a research project that uses low-cost miniaturised radar technology and machine learning to reliably detect water pollutants.

The project is a collaboration between St Andrews and the Universidade Federal de Goiás in Brazil, a country that faces unprecedented problems caused by water pollution.

The long-term plan is to enable environmental researchers to make cheaper, faster measurements in the field using smartphones and other mobile devices.

EPSRC Impact Acceleration Accounts 2017

1 University of Bath
2 University of Birmingham
3 University of Bristol
4 Brunel University
5 University of Cambridge
6 Cardiff University
7 Cranfield University
8 Durham University
9 University of Edinburgh
10 University of Exeter
11 University of Glasgow
12 Heriot-Watt University
13 Imperial College London
14 King's College London
15 Lancaster University
16 University of Leeds
17 University of Liverpool
18 Loughborough University
19 The University of Manchester
20 Newcastle University
21 University of Nottingham
22 University of Oxford
23 Queen Mary, University of London
24 Queen's University of Belfast
25 University of Sheffield
26 University of Southampton
27 University of St Andrews
28 University of Strathclyde
29 University of Surrey
30 Swansea University
31 University College London
32 University of Warwick
33 University of York


Notes for Editors:

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) builds on the UK's world-class research base and delivers the science that business needs to transform existing industries and create new ones. It accelerates commercial exploitation of the most exciting technologies the UK has to offer the world to ensure that scientific investment truly delivers economic impact, jobs and growth right across the country. The ISCF is delivered by Innovate UK and Research Councils UK, and eventually UK Research and Innovation, the single voice for the UK's research and innovation landscape.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

As the main funding agency for engineering and physical sciences research, our vision is for the UK to be the best place in the world to Research, Discover and Innovate.

By investing £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation. Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research we fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture.

We work collectively with our partners and other Research Councils on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.