Research Impact

Within the UK, the quality and impact of university research is assessed by the nationwide Research Excellence Framework (REF), which often influences future funding. Last undertaken in 2014, under the current system, it is repeated every six years with the next assessment due in 2020.

The Faculty’s research falls into four main categories: Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences; Mathematical Sciences; Computer Science and Informatics; and General Engineering. The highest achievable ratings are 4* or 3*, representing research judged to be ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.

Research Excellence Framework 2014

Over half of our research in these areas was found to be 3* or 4* overall. All of our ‘Computer Science and Informatics’ research was rated 3 or 4* for impact, as was 80% of ‘Mathematical Sciences’ and 70% of ‘Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences’ research. Find out more about the University’s REF 2014 results.

Research that makes a difference

Though receiving critical acclaim for research is always welcome, our primary aim is to work with our partners in industry, government and academia to apply our expertise to benefit individuals, communities, businesses and society all over the world. 

We are undertaking varied research to support sustainable development, protect the environment and enhance our personal and professional lives with new technology and innovation. Below, you’ll get a taste of some of our past projects. You can read about more current projects within our individual Research Centre pages.

Increasing home energy efficiency

Meeting future energy needs in a more sustainable way is a key challenge, especially when consumers are concerned about the rising cost of heating their homes. Through a collaboration called the Digital Environment Home Energy Management Systems (DEHEMS), set up with EU funding, our research is developing new technology for households that measures and monitors energy consumption, integrated with external usage data. 

It has led to the development of a new digital meter – launched commercially as EnergyHive – successfully installed in homes and companies throughout the UK, Europe and internationally. 

Camden Council, which has installed energy heating and hot water meters using EnergyHive Software as a Service, has estimated that over the lifetime of their heat metering programme they will save 8,000 tonnes of CO2 within 2,500 homes, while housing authorities in Australia are projecting to reduce energy consumption for their tenants by 20%. Our research has enabled manufacturers Hildebrand Ltd, previously a small R&D company providing cloud computing products, to diversify into an entirely new market, generating income of more than £7.5 million.

Control engineering applied to radiotherapy

Our researchers have worked with the NHS and global medical technology companies to use control systems development in precision radiotherapy. This has underpinned the development of innovative equipment, which optimises the targeting of treatments to kill cancer cells within the body, minimising collateral damage to healthy cells.

The research, which predicts overall motion compensation in relation to the breathing of the patient during treatment, was used to evaluate the tracking ability of the cutting-edge VERO radiation machine from Brainlab/Mitsubishi.

Improving passenger safety in crashes

Our computer modelling and simulation of automotive and aerospace crashes means that passengers now travel in cars and aircraft made safer thanks to simulation advancements.

Research on pedestrian impact, vehicle roll-over, airbag deployment, adaptable vehicle structures and human body modelling has led to improvements to the MADYMO software suite, the industry standard for safety design and virtual crash testing, used by all the main equipment manufacturers. We also undertook the first successful modelling of helicopter rollover.