University–business collaborations awarded share of £100,000

Research and Innovation Fund recognises five new partnerships

Five collaborations bringing together academics and businesses across health, science and engineering have been awarded funding of £100,000 to pursue innovative new projects.

From the development of an agricultural robot to formulating a method of decontaminating gowns, masks and medical PPE, the projects have all received grants in the region of £20,000 from the Research and Development Fund at the University.

The Fund was launched in November 2020 as part of the University’s continuing support for the business community during the pandemic. Delivered in partnership with Thomas Westcott Chartered Accountants, it is designed to stimulate industrial collaborations and knowledge transfer opportunities between researchers and businesses, aiming to solve specific business problems. It is also designed to act as a catalyst for businesses to gain even greater access to the University’s facilities, such as the COAST Lab, the Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre and the Digital Fabrication Laboratory.

Adrian Dawson, Director of Research & Innovation at the University, said:

“The response to the Research and Development Fund has been excellent and we were delighted to be able to award the entire first round of funding to these five collaborations. It demonstrates the appetite within the business community to work with researchers, and how universities can be a catalyst for innovation and the development of new products and services.”

The five collaborations awarded funding are:

  • Dr Tina Joshi, Lecturer in Molecular Microbiology, working with Finsen Technologies, London, on the efficacy of Ultra Violet-C technologies in decontaminating clinical gowns and surfaces from pathogens, thus reducing the risk of transmission to patients.
  • Jake Gibson Shaw-Sutton, Senior Technician in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, working with graduate start-up company Robotriks to develop a new prototype of an autonomous agricultural robot that can navigate uneven terrain.
  • Dr Richard Pemberton, Lecturer in Mechanical and Marine Engineering Design, partnering with AlphaFox Systems Ltd, Honiton, to develop unique non-forgeable identity badges, using 3D printing, for the defence sector.
  • Dr Shakil Awan, Lecturer in Electronics and Nanotechnology, collaborating with Zimmer and Peacock, Ltd, on the development of a device to diagnose cardiovascular disease using graphene sensors that can detect a specific protein biomarker.
  • Dr Gyorgy Fejer, Lecturer in Environmental Pathogens, and Simon Jackson, Emeritus Professor, working with Clyz Labs Limited, Runcorn, to develop a proof-of-concept for a new form of personalised treatment for lung cancer, which in turn will support future, and larger, grant applications.

Speaking of the award, Dr Joshi, said:

“Currently, the biocides used to decontaminate surfaces in healthcare settings cannot be used with PPE – and that has major implications both for transmission of disease and the re-usability and sustainability of often valuable PPE. So it’s great to be able to bid for this funding, which will bring together my research with Finsen Tech’s product development expertise, as we look to find solutions to this global issue.”

Adam Croney, Director at Thomas Westcott Chartered Accountants, added:

“Thomas Westcott is delighted to be able to support and champion these innovative projects. When industry and academia join forces, the results can be extraordinary. We congratulate these first recipients of the Research and Development Fund and look forward to seeing their ideas come to fruition.”

Another £100,000 is available in round two of the fund, which is open for applications until 22 March 2021. Businesses from any industry sector or geographic location in the UK are eligible to apply, and funds can be used to cover a variety of costs including academic research time to focus on a specific opportunity or challenge to a business; research time of the industrial partner; and access to specialist University facilities or equipment.

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