RAEng awards £22m research funding

Low-carbon waste treatment, medicine, batteries and ocean engineering are among  topics covered by latest emerging technologies awardees

The Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) has awarded its eight new emerging technologies chairs through the UK government’s Innovation in Research Talent Initiative, with grants intended to cover 10-year research programmes. All eight of the researchers are investigating technologies which “have the potential to considerably benefit society and the UK economy, and enable the nation to remain at the global forefront of engineering innovation,” the Academy said.

The research areas are intended to be aligned with the UK’s technological priorities, “with many of the projects directly aligned to the government’s Industrial Strategy and designed to tackle some of the biggest industrial and societal challenges of our time,” it added.

Prof Danail Stoyanov of UCL specialises in robotics to pay the minimally invasive surgery. Image: UCL

The eight chairs are:

  • Prof Richard Dinsdale, University of South Wales, who aims to develop and commercialise microbial bioelectrochemical systems for waste treatment and resource recovery;
  • Prof Susan Gourvenec University of Southampton, who will address technology gaps at each stage of the engineered life cycle of ocean structures, from forecasting ocean and seafloor behaviour, to designing and operating novel platforms for ocean facilities;
  • Prof Natalio Krasnogor Newcastle University, who will investigate innovative ways of scaling up the volume of data that can be stored in living cells by storing, searching, sorting and retrieving data encoded in the genetic materials DNA or RNA;
  • Prof Ian Saxley Metcalfe, Newcastle University, who will develop new chemical reactor technologies to help achieve the energy conversions needed to support a low-carbon energy future including, but not limited to, low-carbon hydrogen production;
  • Prof Alessandro Olivio, University College London, whose work aims to change the way x-rays are used in a variety of fields, including medicine, industrial inspections and security scans;
  • Prof Themis Prodromakis, University of Southampton, who will use innovations in nanotechnology to create a new electronic fabric that merges memory with computing power while maintaining extreme power efficiency – like the human brain;
  • Prof Danail Stoyanov, University College London, who will develop robotic surface structures with embedded sensors that can adapt their shape and size using artificial intelligence algorithms to control and interpret sensory information to enhance imaging in minimally invasive surgery;
  • Prof Magda Titirici, Imperial College London, who w ill develop sustainable future energy technologies, particularly new kinds of batteries to replace Lithium, clean and low-cost production of Hydrogen from biomass or plastic waste and its use in fuel cells free from precious metals

Each awardee receives £2,780,000 over 10 years to allow them to progress their concepts from basic science through to full commercialisation.

Dr Dame Frances Saunders, who leads the Chairs in Emerging Technologies steering group, said: “We have had a large number of fantastic research proposals from very talented individuals across a wide range of engineering disciplines, which has made our job of choosing the final eight awardees particularly challenging. We have been delighted to see ideas coming forward in this round to apply emerging technologies that could revolutionise some more traditional fields of engineering as well as those that could open new areas of application. This is an exciting set of proposals and we look forward to seeing their progress in the years to come.”

Academy president Prof Sir Jim McDonald added: “The quality and vision of those receiving the awards are testament to the outstanding research talent in the UK. It is essential that we support both the innovations and the pioneering individuals who will transform their ideas into fully commercialised technologies with important and widespread applications.”