Fund looks to turn scientific advances into useable products

A Cambridge University academic has been awarded £1.2m to help innovators translate scientific advances and technological developments into product ideas suitable for manufacture, distribution and use.

Dr Nathan Crilly’s five-year Early Career Fellowship will be used to develop design guidance for scientists, technologists and engineers working with emerging technologies.

In a statement Crilly said: ‘The projected markets for emerging technologies are enormous, and the UK is in a strong position to lead technology development and commercial exploitation.

‘However, realising these opportunities depends on the capacity to translate scientific advances and technological developments… Developing flexibly applicable design guidance is key to enhancing that capacity.’

The project will examine a variety of scientific developments, ranging from nanomaterials constructed at the atomic level through to smart infrastructures enabled by the internet and other complex systems.

Factors that contribute to the successful development and operation of such technical systems will be identified, structured and communicated.

Crilly added: ‘Developing actionable design guidance is challenging because there is uncertainty over which of the many rapidly emerging technologies will be commercialised, and which different types of system these technologies will be composed of.’

‘The research will combine industrial case studies with an analysis of how different types of system function. The common factors that contribute to the performance, efficiency and robustness of these systems will be communicated to practitioners through collaboration with specialists in digital media.’

Crilly’s award is part of the £2.5m Early Career Fellowship funding announced today by the EPSRC.

A second award of £1.3m was granted to Loughborough University’s Dr Rob Thomas, who will lead a project to develop the tools for the manufacture of large quantities of medically valuable cells from umbilical cord blood.

Making large quantities of cells in the lab could lead to new treatments for serious diseases and produce stocks of manufactured blood or platelets for transfusions.

Thomas said: ‘Within the next five years there will be substantial advances in treatments using cell-based therapies.

‘My proposed research will provide the manufacturing tools to enable the clinical community to deliver a new cohort of treatments for serious diseases to patients in the UK as well as support an important new economic activity in the UK.’