Faculty Research with Industry
In a world of fierce economic pressure and global competition, our desire is to help industry and commerce work faster, smarter, more efficiently and effectively. Our unique collaborations and shared facilities with Unipart, NEL and Horiba MIRA demonstrate our commitment to meaningful industry engagement.
We believe universities should be places where academia, teaching and industry meet to advance research, innovation and technological development. Our aim is to discover new solutions to increasingly complex problems and turn industrial strategy into jobs and prosperity.
Our research aligns us with leading funding bodies, government agencies and companies of all sizes – from multinationals such as Jaguar Land Rover, GE Aviation, Intel and Shell to national service providers like the National Health Service (NHS) and Highways England Company Ltd, as well as the Department for Transport, Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. We have also assisted dozens of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
A recognised leader for independent measurement expertise and services, we are a National Physical Laboratory (NPL) approved training deliverer and provide regular consultancy to academics in the field, as well as the aerospace industry and its supply chain, including Rolls Royce, Trescal and Arrowsmith Engineering. Below, we’ve highlighted some of our major collaborative research projects.
New Aston Martin exhaust
Providing Aston Martin with an exhaust system half the weight of alternatives proved a winning project for the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (AME). We firstly designed and tested a lighter prototype exhaust, then developed an efficient, cost-competitive production process to overcome challenges of manufacturing lightweight technology.
The project secured the ‘Technology Innovation’ title at the Cotswold Life Engineering Manufacturing Innovation (EMI) Awards 2016. Judges praised AME’s ability to “rewrite the rule book when it comes to commercialising new technology and ensuring the economic value and jobs remain in the UK”. AME won Unipart and the University ‘Best Partnership’ in the Guardian University Awards 2016.
Keeping railways safe
In a world that is overloaded with data, knowledge management is crucial. We have worked with Siemens, General Electric and the Ministry of Defence to understand how to use existing datasets to understand safety concerns, diagnose and make prognostics decisions. The railway industry recognised that it had yet to fully realise the potential of the vast amount of data available.
Funded by the Railway Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), our ‘Keep Safe’ research project demonstrated how data can help design and implement mechanisms to assure the safety and security of customers and staff. A key output was a software tool which enables the industry to analyse the data in terms of safety. In the case of a disaster, it will help the industry manage an effective response.
Cementing industry relations
Annually, 60 billion tonnes of natural resources are used to produce goods or services, 50% more than 30 years ago. A major consumer, building construction and maintenance faces growing scrutiny due to global energy and environmental fears. Our research is helping to identify new techniques and technologies, and shaping future regulatory standards.
In the UK, c300,000 of 2.5 million tonnes of plasterboard manufactured per year for partitions, lining walls and ceilings, ends up as waste, mostly landfill. Our cost-effective cement replacement uses mineral wastes and recycled gypsum from waste plasterboard. Successful tests on low-medium strength concrete mixes for the foundations of minor roads and car parks has generated enquiries from several contractors.
In future, two-thirds of new electricity is predicted to come from solar, wind and hydro sources. In 2011, we participated in a £5 million European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) initiative with the Department for Communities and Local Government.
The Sustainable Building Futures project was intended to help SMEs compete in a challenging business environment by collaborative development, assessment and the implementation of innovative environmental technology products. It provided access to specialised testing equipment, workshops, academic expertise, networking and information on further regional and national finance. Initially funded until June 2015, the project was extended six months and helped 575 SMEs in the Midlands.
Unmanned military vehicles
In 2011, the MoD decided to explore how unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) could reduce personnel involvement in logistics operations. Based on of ‘fuzzy logic’, a form of artificial intelligence, we devised a cutting-edge, intelligent control and guidance system. This allowed UGVs to ‘talk’ to each other to enable smart, autonomous clustering of vehicles.
This was essential for convoys of unmanned military vehicles delivering supplies in unpredictable circumstances. We also created a unique simulator for a UGV convoy in military environments they might be deployed. We can assess the efficiency of the system in numerous scenarios: changeable terrain; climate conditions; different threat levels; and how vehicles could stay on course if connection with the convoy was lost.
Subsea development research
We helped NEL, a key strategic partner, secure £16 million in funding for a new Centre of Excellence (CoE) for subsea development. We researched, co-wrote and co-presented the initial £4.9 million bid, which led to NEL’s parent company, TÜV SÜD AG, agreeing a further £11.1 million investment.
The CoE will provide world-leading fluid flow technical services to the £50 billion per year global oil and gas sector over the next 25 years. It offers opportunities for hands-on training for the industry, academic research, company-led industrial projects and development work with SMEs. It could also potentially benefit companies in other sectors, such as nuclear power, food and drink, aerospace and renewable energy.