EPSRC Successes

At certain times of the year, there is much anxiety amongst Principal Investigators as they await the outcome of Research Council funding rounds. I’m delighted to report that, following the latest EPSRC funding rounding, NU has enjoyed considerable success. Total EPSRC funding for the first quarter of this calendar year is ca. £15M. The breakdown across the Faculty is shown in the table, although  in many instances this must be taken with a pinch of salt because the larger proposals represent the efforts of many investigators across SAgE and beyond. While the total sum will in some cases be shared with other institutions, these awards nonetheless take our success rate with EPSRC to greater than 80% which is a fantastic achievement,  and we are on-track to exceed our new awards target for this year. Many congratulations and a heartfelt thanks to all involved.

School

Number of Proposals Funded

Value of Proposals Funded (£)

CEAM 1 265,896
CEG 3 9,154,950
CS 3 1,807,055
EEE 1 2,041,122
IoN 1 564,971
Maths and Stats 1 101,116
MSE 1 61,118
NIReS 1 746,938
Chemistry 1 114,969
TOTAL 13 14,858,136

 I am aware of a number of additional awards ‘in the works’ – these have yet to be announced and those in the table above are strictly those that have been formally announced – so the news will get even better.

Time and space do not permit a detailed narrative on all of these awards, but I will highlight a few. The largest award of ca. £5.5M, coordinated by Professor Tom Curtis (CEG), will exploit biological systems to address in a sustainable way the numerous challenges facing societies such as waste, energy, water, healthcare, new chemicals and materials, and agriculture. One of the greatest limitations in biology is taking what is possible in the test-tube and making it a reality in the reactor or environment. In this project, the investigators seek to use the best scientific principles and theories to develop a suite of universal principles and models for the scalable simulation of open biological systems. These models will allow the engineering design of new functionalities offered by natural or synthetic organisms addressing a range of different challenges for the benefit of mankind.

Another large award in CEG (ca. £3.5M) is coordinated by Professor Richard Dawson, which concerns our national infrastructure.  Systems of networks (e.g. energy, water, transport, waste, ICT) that support services such as healthcare, education, emergency response and thereby ensure our social, economic and environmental wellbeing – face a multitude of challenges. A growing population, modern economy and proliferation of new technologies have placed increased and new demands on infrastructure services and made infrastructure networks increasingly inter-connected. Meanwhile, investment has not kept up with the pace of change leaving many components at the end of their life. Moreover, global environmental change necessitates reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved resilience to extreme events, implying major reconfigurations of these infrastructure systems. Addressing these challenges is further complicated by fragmented, often reactive, regulation and governance arrangements. The project, termed ‘i-BUILD’,  will bring together researchers across three UK Universities with world-leading track records in engineering, economics and social sciences, and the research vision and capacity to deliver a multi-disciplinary analysis of innovative business models around infrastructure interdependencies.

A third large award (ca. £1.3M) coordinated by Professor Peter Wright (COMP) aims to develop and test through real-world research, a digital platform and toolkit that will enable members of the public to engage with local councils and other organisations more effectively in the research, planning and design of the urban environment. The specific focus will concern people’s experiences of mobility and access to the urban environment, and how this changes with age. The project is a collaboration with City Councils in the Northeast Region, and Newcastle’s’ Age Friendly city initiative. The investigators will design and develop a toolkit of digital sensors to capture evidence and experiences from older people’s journeys through and social interactions within the city centre. They will also develop a participatory design platform which will allow members of the general public to access, comment, and vote on design issues, and to add their own experiences of access and the built environment.

All in all, very exciting and innovative ideas. Best of luck to the coordinators and their colleagues for a successful series of projects. We look forward to a number of excellent impact outcomes.

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About stevehomans

Professor Steve Homans is a structural biologist with an international reputation in the study of biomolecular interactions. He obtained his first degree and DPhil in Biochemistry at Oxford University, and secured his first academic position as Lecturer at the University of Dundee. In 1998 he received the Zeneca award from the Biochemical Society and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Prior to his current appointment he was Dean of the Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds. Professor Homans brings extensive expertise of academic leadership and management, with a particular emphasis on organisational change.
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