It’s all material

News editor

Materials science and electrochemistry are the initial focus of this week’s Briefing with competitions offering a total prize fund of £68,000 for demonstrable innovation in both disciplines.

British-based materials scientists and engineers are being encouraged to enter the £25,000 Materials Science Venture Prize whilst in Germany Volkswagen and BASF have launched an international competition with a €50,000 prize for the winner of Science Award Electrochemistry.

The Venture Prize, donated by the Armourers & Brasiers livery company, is expected to help engineers and scientists commercialise early-stage research and enable the exploitation of new ideas in the field of materials science.

Applications are welcome from all materials scientists and engineers, whether linked to a major UK university department or working in industry.

We’ve been told that the judging committee, made up of commercial, financial and technical experts, will be looking for: novel and innovative scientific concepts being developed in a British location; an outline business plan with the potential for long-term commercial success; individuals with the vision, drive, leadership and commitment to turn ideas into reality; and a project with intellectual property on the way to protection or already protected.

The 2012 Venture Prize winners came from Oxford University for developing a high-technology coating with the potential to significantly reduce the manufacturing costs of new-generation solar photovoltaic cells. In 2011, Sheffield Hallam University won the Venture Prize for their research into developing lightweight body armour.

Entries are open now and close at the end of March 2013. Details can be obtained here or by emailing

In Germany Volkswagen and BASF are looking to fund researchers aged below 40 who are applying electrochemistry in the areas of chemistry, physics and engineering.

They say research activities in the contest could address – but isn’t limited by – battery materials, cells, battery systems, production and operations as well as recycling.

The closing date for applications is June 15, 2013 and full details can be found here.

The Engineer is awash with developments in material science and only last week we reported on a new material that generates electricity from body heat, a development that could lead to clothing that can keep a mobile phone charged.

Developed in South Korea, the organic thermoelectric produces an electric charge from the temperature difference between the body and the environment and can be formulated as a flexible, cuttable film.

Another notable materials success story was generated in November 2012, when engineers at Surrey University and Lockheed Martin UK revealed their project to develop appliqué vehicle armour that can withstand multiple ballistic strikes.

Their solution to keeping armour on a vehicle after being struck involves a proprietary method of treating the adhesive and pre-conditioning ceramic surfaces prior to bonding.

It comes as no surprise to see material science being exploited in military applications, sometimes as a matter of operational urgency. For example, an RPG-defeating textile net manufactured from high-tenacity fibres will be on display at IDEX in Abu Dhabi this week.

Made by AmSafe Bridport, Tarian is a lightweight and flexible rocket propelled grenade armour system that is claimed to be a more robust alternative to heavy, metal bar armour RPG protection systems. The company was recently awarded £10.6m to supply Tarian armour to the MOD.

Kicking off tomorrow in Berlin is Product Innovation (PI) 2013, an event that its organisers describe as being ‘at the nexus between R&D, Engineering and IT providing insight and inspiration into product information creation, development and management.’

Among the myriad of speakers is Mark Chapman, chief engineer on a UK project to break the world land speed record with BLOODHOUND SSC.

BLOODHOUND SSC is being designed to travel at 1,000mph and regular readers of The Engineer will be well aware that the scope of the project goes way beyond the glory of holding a world record.

Despite pushing the boundaries of existing technologies, BLOODHOUND SSC is actively engaged in a schools programme designed to help inspire the next generation of engineers.

Never far from the latest development on the project, The Engineer’s coverage of the last milestone, the testing of the hybrid rocket system in Cornwall, can be found here.

(PI) 2013 runs from February 19-20.

In Brief

Some sobering news from The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) who today report an average year on year fall (to December 2012) of 7.5 per cent across permanent and temporary engineering vacancies.

The trends report also found that average salaries within the engineering sector declined on a year-by-year basis.

Today marks the start of three-day trade delegation to India. Led by PM David Cameron, the visit has been described as ‘the largest trade delegation taken on an overseas trip by a Prime Minister’ and includes representatives from Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, BP, and London Underground.

The first of Cambridge Wireless’ prestigious lecture series is to be delivered tomorrow evening by Dr Hermann Hauser.

In his talk, entitled “What next in Communication?”, Dr Hauser will address the challenges and opportunities in the communication sector and what contributions Cambridge can make.