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Research Strategy Office


Materials for gas storage and separation

Dr David Fairen-Jiminez, a postdoctoral fellow in Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, had developed and patented a technology for synthesing novel metal-organic framework materials which can be used to store and separate gases far more effectively than alternative materials. He commissioned an iTeams project to investigate applications for the technology. He then received an EPSRC IAA Follow on Fund grant to scale-up the technology. He founded a spinout company, Immaterial Ltd to exploit the technology, and was a winner of the Cambridge Enterprise- EPOC business plan competition in 2015.  Immaterial Ltd has since secured an Innovate UK grant for further development in collaboration with Johnson Matthey and CPI.

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Dr Damian Gardiner, a postdoc in Engineering, had identified a possible application in anti-counterfeiting technology, using liquid crystal inks to print unique security identifiers on high-value commercial products.  Dr Gardiner was awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellowship, and an EPSRC IAA Follow-on Fund grant to help with overcoming technical barriers to implementation. He founded a start-up company “Illumink” to exploit the technology, which was acquired by Johnson Matthey company Tracerco.

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Protein characterisation tool

Prof Tuomas Knowles, Department of Chemistry, developed a microfluidics-based technology to characterise proteins in solution.  Proof of concept of the technology was established with grants from the EPSRC IAA Follow on Fund and Innovate UK. A spinout company, Fluidic Analytics, was formed to commercialise the technology, which has now attracted significant investment.

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Hydrogen storage

Enass Abo Hamed undertook a PhD in the Department of Chemistry on a hybrid functional 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.  After successfully completing her PhD, she was awarded an EPSRC IAA Follow on Fund grant to design a demonstrator system to allow for demonstrating the utility of the material to generate power for portable devices through integration within a suitable fuel cell.  She then founded a start-up company, H2GO to exploit the results of the project, which has also been awarded a £15 000 Accelerate Cambridge grant.

More efficient power electronics

Giorgia Longobardi completed her PhD in the Department of Engineering on high voltage GaN semiconductor devices. She was awarded an EPSRC IAA Follow on Fund grant to develop and characterise operational device prototypes based on her research. Applications are in high efficiency power supplies, DC to DC, AC to DC converters and inverters in hybrid and electric vehicles. The application of GaN technology to replace ineffective silicon solutions would result in massive energy savings and concomitantly reduce carbon emissions.The project led to securing further funding from two leading companies in GaN technology and the creation of a spin-off company (Cambridge GaN Devices), established in October 2016.  Giorgia was a joint winner of the Cambridge Enterprise- EPOC Business Plan competition 2016.

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Inventory control for retailers

Prof Richard Penty and Prof Ian White in the Department of Engineering had undertaken research over a number of years into RFID tracking technology, and had identified a potential application within the retail sector for inventory control.  They were awarded an EPSRC IAA Follow on Fund grant to develop a low-power aerial which could be successfully integrated into a retail space as part of a ceiling tile.  A spinout company, PervasivID is exploiting the technology, which has now raised £720 000 investment funding.

Technology Roadmapping with Xaar

Technology Road-mapping (TRM) workshops are organised by the Institute for Manufacturing for researchers and their stakeholders to create roadmaps for future research and exploitation planning to underpin commercialisation strategies. An opportunity was identified to use cross-disciplinary University expertise in rheology to address specific issues with inkjet printing. The Institute for Manufacturing organised a TRM workshop attended by engineers from Xaar and academics with relevant research interests from departments including Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and Engineering to tackle the problem. 

New MRI techniques for modelling joint inflammation

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a priority area of investigation for the GSK experimental medical imaging group. GSK had identified that MRI scanning with biomarkers could potentially be used to model inflammation in joints, through observable changes in cartilage, bone and soft tissue.  Prof Fiona Gilbert, Department of Radiology was awarded an EPSRC IAA Partnership Development Award which funded a postdoctoral researcher for 6 months. The PDRA undertook initial investigations using MRI with biomarkers to image knee joints over 6 months, working with the equipment manufacturer, GE who provided specialist training for the researcher and collaborated on methodology development. GSK are now funding the postdoctoral researcher to continue this work for a further 2.5 years, to improve the scanning techniques, and to study the efficacy of these bio-markers in determining response to treatment in RA.   

High temperature alloys for industrial applications

Knauf Insulation is an international business with a turnover in excess of €1.3 billion in 2014. Knauf Insulation forms part of the Knauf Group with substantial manufacturing and research investment in the UK. Dr Howard Stone and Dr.Vasant Kumar applied for an EPSRC IAA Partnership Development Award to fund a PDRA to carry out initial work to address the company’s interest in the mechanism of electrolytic degradation of high temperature metal alloys in contact with molten ceramics. Following the completion of the initial 6 month IAA project, the company fully funded a continuation of the project for a further 12 months.

Commissioning an NMRI system

Dr Adam Colbourne from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology undertook a three month placement at Schlumberger, funded jointly by the company and the EPSRC IAA.  He worked with the company to set-up and characterise a nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI) system, for eventual application as a rheological tool (Rheo-NMR). The project also produced data for a joint publication and strengthened the collaboration between the University and the company.

Aero engine fan blade design

Dr Pranya Seshadri completed his PhD in the Department of Engineering, sponsored by Rolls Royce. He then undertook a one year EPSRC-IAA Knowledge Transfer Fellowship which seconded him to the company to transfer the knowledge he developed during his PhD into the company.  As a result of the project, a technique known as "Dimension reduction" has been applied to the design of fan blades. This can reduce manufacturing imperfections and potentially avoid expensive re-designs.  Also, an open source set of tools called Effective Quadratures has been developed in collaboration with Stanford, University of Utah and University of Cagliari. Rolls Royce has now funded a 3 year postdoc and  an undergraduate summer project to continue the collaboration.