Five-year grants totalling £20m will be given to Bath, Imperial, London School of Economics, Edinburgh, Exeter, Heriot-Watt, Lancaster, Manchester and Strathclyde Universities as a result of the EPSRC 2008 Science and Innovation Awards.
Manchester University in partnership with Lancaster University have received a £5m grant to research applications of graphene - a new form of ‘super carbon’, discovered in the UK in 2004 - in areas of material science, chemistry and engineering.
Exeter University and the University of Bath have jointly received grants totalling around £5m to look at the applications of graphene in the areas of nano-electronics, photonics and bio-sciences.
The other two EPSRC Science and Innovation Awards for 2008 have been shared between Imperial College London and the London School of Economics (LSE) for research into synthetic biology and a consortium of Scottish universities – University of Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt and Strathclyde University - looking at high performance computing, including complex software algorithms and numerical analysis.
Lesley Thompson, EPSRC Director of Research, said: "These awards are part of our continuing work to ensure Britain has the necessary leadership and resources in breakthrough areas of scientific research. These new centres will have the critical mass to make major research progress, stimulate research in the UK and international community and, where appropriate, to encourage innovation in UK business and industry.”
Professor Simon Gaskell, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Manchester University, said: “The EPSRC Science & Innovation Award will result in a long-lasting impact by creating a globally-recognized multidisciplinary centre of excellence focused on graphene research.”
The EPSRC is funding the four programmes with supporting finance from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC)
David Sweeney, Director of Research, Innovation and Skills, HEFCE, said:
"HEFCE is pleased to partner the EPSRC in this round of the Science and Innovation Awards focussing on emerging areas of expertise in science and engineering. We are committed to building capacity in excellent research and these awards will play their part in securing the UK's success in this area of leading edge scientific activity.”
The four centres are outlined in more detail below.
Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt and Strathclyde (Joint Bid)
Research: Numerical Algorithms and Intelligent Software forthe evolving HPC Platform
Lead: Professor Nigel Brown, Pro Vice Chancellor, Edinburgh
Co-Investigators: Professor D Duncan, Heriot-Watt; Professor M Ainsworth, Strathclyde
The aim on this centre is to narrow the gap between the peak performance that high performance computers (HPC) are theoretically capable of and the actual performance that can be achieved with current software. Improvements must keep pace with advances in computing technology if new hardware investment is to be fully exploited for the benefit of society. By bringing mathematicians and computer scientists and HPC specialists into close collaboration with HPC specialists, this initiative will address key issues in energy, health sciences, nanoscience, and the digital economy. The centre will foster knowledge exchange partnerships with major computing companies (HP, IBM, SGI) as well as industrial users of HPC algorithms (Schlumberger, Orange/France Telecom, SAS). Connections to national laboratories such as Daresbury and Rutherford Appleton are also planned. The project is further enhanced through funded connections with Cambridge University, the University of Warwick, and the Wales Institute for Mathematical and Computational Science.
Exeter University and University of Bath (joint bid)
Research: Graphene: Fundamental Research and Applications in Nano-electronics, Photonics and Bio-Sciences
Lead: Professor Roger Kain, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Exeter
Co-Investigators: Professor SJ Bending, Bath, Professor Kevin Edge, BathProfessor Alexander Savchenko, Exeter
The Centre will act as an international focus for graphene science, supporting both academic and industrial research activities. It will create new academic positions and provide a state-of-the-art equipment base, equal to that found in any laboratory worldwide, to attract leading researchers from around the globe. The Science and Innovation Award will fund staff, infrastructure and top-of-the-range equipment. A broad spectrum of multi-disciplinary and complementary experiments will be supported by theoretical investigations.
Imperial College London and London School of Economics
Research: Centre for Synthetic Biology and Innovation at Imperial College
Lead: Professor J Wood,
Co-Investigators: Professor Richard Kitney, Professor Paul Freemont, Professor Nick Rose, London School of Economics
By 2015 Synthetic Biology is projected to be a rapidly developing industrial sector touching on areas of healthcare, renewable energy, materials, industrial processes and food technology. Imperial’s aim is to generate intellectual property for licensing, spinout companies and collaborative research – in order to place them and the UK at the forefront of this research.
Synthetic Biology concerns the design and manufacture of biologically-based devices and systems that do not already exist in the natural world. This includes the re-design and fabrication of existing biological systems. Synthetic Biology is different from conventional genetic engineering because of the emphasis on foundation technologies, thereby hopefully making the engineering of biology easier and more reliable.
Manchester and Lancaster Universities (Joint Bid)
Research: Centre for Innovation Through Materials Science,
Chemistry and Engineering
Lead: Professor Simon Gaskell, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Manchester
Co-Investigators: Professor Andre Geim, Manchester
Professor Trevor McMillan, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Lancaster
Graphene, discovered in Manchester in 2004, is an isolated atomic plane made from carbon atoms. The electronic properties of graphene have led to research into its use as a possible replacement for sensors, transistors and semi-transistors. Researchers now increasingly believe graphene may have uses in many other areas. This centre will examine possible applications in relation to material science, chemistry and engineering.