PhD opportunities available in collaboration with North East businesses

Are you interested in a funded PhD to start 1st October, working on exciting research in collaboration with regional businesses?

Check out the range of Intensive Industrial Innovation Projects funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Topics range from exploring the implications of smart devices on ageing at home to investigating the use of building information modelling to supplement planning processes.

Apply by midnight 16th July 2018. Full details here:

Northumbria University is seeking applications for PhD studentships, to work closely with business in the region, as part of the £3.9m Intensive Industrial Innovation Programme (IIIP) funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

The IIIP Programme aims to encourage a culture of innovation that benefits business, leading to greater export opportunities and increased graduate employment, particularly in science and engineering. The IIIP Programme is a collaboration between Northumbria, Durham, Newcastle and Teesside Universities. If you are going to be studying at Portsmouth university then it’s a great choice as it’s one of the best in the country, there is also some great accommodation available so you can easily live in style while studying in this amazing city.

During each PhD project, the research student will work closely with the collaborating business, using innovative research to support the development of new products and services. Students will spend up to 49% of their time working with the business and at least 51% of their time at Northumbria University.

The PhD projects will start on 1st October 2018, for three years. The eligibility criteria for PhD candidates:

  • The IIIP PhD funding is available to Home and EU students.
  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2.1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities; or a Masters, or APEL evidence of suitable practitioner achievement)
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria University or elsewhere

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Innovate UK: Innovation in vehicle-to-grid (V2G) systems

Innovate UK have released a call on innovation in vehicle-to-grid systems:

So-called vehicle-to-grid technologies are expected to play a big part in making the UK’s electricity supply network smarter and in encouraging take-up.

Vehicles that can take electricity from the grid when demand is low and return it when demand is high could help to even out peaks and troughs and make the grid more efficient.

The UK government wants nearly all cars to be zero emission by 2050, and it sees a smarter and more flexible electricity system as a major benefit to consumers and a key to future growth.

The scheme comes in three variants: feasibility studies (total costs: £125k – £225k, up to 1 year duration); collaborative research and development (£375k – £1.5M, 18 months to 3 years); and real-world demonstrators (£1.5M – £7M, up to 3 years).

All types of project must be led by a business, though research organisations can participate in any of the three types of project as long as their costs do not exceed 30% of the overall costs.

There is a briefing event on 9th August in London and a brokerage event on 17th August. Applications must be submitted by 18th October.

Please contact your Faculty RFPM at an early stage if you’re interested in applying.

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Enterprise Fellowships: Royal Academy of Engineering – OPEN NOW

Academic by Time Ellis CC BY-NC
Academic by Time Ellis CC BY-NC

The Royal Academy of Engineering have recently announced that the competition for Enterprise Fellowships is now open. Please get in touch with us if you wish to discuss an application – the deadline is Monday 2nd October 2017:

Fellowships are available to both university-based academics of any experience level who wish to spin-out a company, and also to recent graduates wishing to create a company.

Prior experience of commercialisation activities is not essential, the desire and capability to succeed is more important and we will equip you with the necessary skills through a programme of training and mentoring.

Awardees receive:

  • Up to £60,000 funding
  • 12 months mentoring
  • Business skills and training
  • Lifetime Hub Membership

The Academy does not take any equity stake in the companies formed.

So if you are an academic with an innovation or technology you wish to develop and spin-out from your university, or you have graduated within the last five years and are seeking to run a startup, then we can help you.

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Innovate UK Invests £15 million in the Health & Life Sciences sector

Innovate UK is to invest up to £15 million in innovation projects addressing technical or commercial challenges relevant to the health and life sciences sector that will lead to increased UK SME competitiveness, growth and productivity.

The Health and Life Sciences sector has a focus on agriculture, food and healthcare, underpinned by technologies developed in bioscience and medical research and enabled by expertise in engineering and physical sciences.

The aim of this competition is to stimulate and broaden business innovation in health and life sciences, leading to an increase in productivity.

  • Grants can be awarded to consortia, led by a business of any size, working with other businesses and/or research organisations.
  • All consortia must involve at least one SME and they will particularly welcome projects led by an SME.
  • A project may focus on technical feasibility, industrial research or experimental development depending on the challenge identified.
  • Projects can last from 6 to 36 months, with total costs of £50,000 to £2 million, depending on the type of project and activities proposed.

The competition opens on 12 Sept 2016. The deadline for applications is noon on 16 Nov 2016.

Competition Briefing Event

19 September 2016, London or webcast

Click here to register.

 

 

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The Benefits of University-Industry Collaborations

Dr Tamsin Saxton, guest blogger
Dr Tamsin Saxton, guest blogger

Guest blogger, Dr Tamsin Saxton, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Northumbria University shares the insights she gained at an event designed to provide information to support academics in creating and capitalising on opportunities to work with industry. Below, she summarises the key take-home points explaining why industry collaborations are useful, possible barriers to these collaborations, and how to go about setting up and developing collaborations.

Benefits of collaborations

Academics and universities have a lot to gain from collaborating with industry, whether that be local small businesses, global enterprises, or something in between. Industry collaborations can add substantive content, innovation, and expertise to research funding applications. In some instances, industry might contribute directly to university projects, perhaps by supplying funding, or making available rich and extensive data sets. The best applied research addresses fundamental real-world problems; one of the best ways to uncover those problems can be through industrial collaborations, and successful resolution of those problems can lead to the kind of impact that may well be needed in the next REF. Industry collaborations can also enhance the student experience, such as through work experience opportunities or guest lecture invitations.

Industry also has a lot to gain from collaborations with universities. Universities can offer the best in cutting-edge research, which can be tremendously exciting to an enterprise which might be using outdated approaches, or might just not have the time and resources to dedicate to innovation. Even the largest organisations often do not have the research capacity to innovate constantly in relation to all of their activities, which is why we see universities collaborating with industries of all shapes and sizes. A university collaboration can be a mark of prestige and value to a business organisation, increasing its value and standing among its competitors, and also in the eyes of evaluators such as investors. Collaborations also provide opportunities for businesses to reflect upon their working practices.

Collaborations with businesses in the North-East of England have their own particular benefits. Compared to the rest of the UK, the North-East has the lowest number of start-up companies per capita. Accordingly, local collaborations can help improve this record, while building the regional economy and innovative capacity, and potentially tackling specific societal and economic challenges.

Barriers to collaboration

The establishment of industrial collaborations, however, entails overcoming a number of barriers. Universities do not always market their expertise well; it can be very difficult for external organisations to find out essential information: the expertise, skills and equipment available; who is available for and interested in collaborations; how to go about making and developing contacts. Universities can appear to be alien, intimidating environments; the idea of the ‘ivory tower’ can be off-putting. In addition, universities can be perceived to be expensive working partners, they have different priorities from businesses, and businesses and universities speak a different language and run on different timescales.

Exploration-Innovation - M Schmidt (CC by 2.0)
Exploration-Innovation – M Schmidt (CC by 2.0)

Developing successful projects

There are a number of ways to try to overcome the barriers to collaboration and develop successful projects. University Business Engagement Managers are very happy to talk to academics and provide support. They can point academics to suitable business representatives who are also keen to encourage new projects that will support businesses. Indeed, it can often be wise to involve a trusted body, such as an organisation that provides representation for a set of industries, in a project or a funding application. This body can guide academics to suitable local contacts, and explain the priorities, schedules, and needs of the particular industry in question. It’s always important to keep in mind that successful projects are only built on successful relationships with people, and so building relationships has to be paramount. Starting with a small project, such as a dissertation project, can be a good way to build trust and knowledge of different working styles and needs. Finding out what the industry needs, and offering to help, is a more effective opening gambit than striding in with a request for money, input, or project commitment. Finally, once the project is up and running, then a few things might help it proceed smoothly: have a clear plan; establish common goals and projects; and build in engagement opportunities such as workshops or seminars where you keep people up to date with the project development and particularly its successes.

The event, ‘ESRC Impact Acceleration Account Capacity Building Event’, was held on 26th April 2016, and hosted by Newcastle University (Business School). This report was written by event delegate Dr Tamsin Saxton, Senior Lecturer in Psychology (https://www.northumbria.ac.uk/about-us/our-staff/s/tamsin-saxton)

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Innovate UK: Robotics and Autonomous Systems Call

Shadow Hand Bulb by Richard Greenhill and Hugo Elias CC BY-SA 3.0
Shadow Hand Bulb by Richard Greenhill and Hugo Elias CC BY-SA 3.0

Innovate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council are joining forces to fund industrially relevant research on robotics and autonomous systems.

The call is open now and the deadline for applications is 26th October 2016 (but be aware that as with most Innovate UK calls, you need to register a week beforehand, by the 19th October).

Robots that are independent of human control can learn, adapt and take decisions. These could revolutionise our economy and society over the next 20 years. Disruptive technologies related to robotics and autonomous systems include mobile internet, automation of knowledge work, advanced robotics, and automated and autonomous vehicles.

We are particularly interested in projects that address one or more of the following:

  • system and system-of-systems engineering
  • system verification, validation and certification
  • design and manufacturing of robotic systems
  • multi-sensor system integration, data fusion and perception
  • control systems for remotely controlled or unmanned system operation
  • cognitive systems for autonomous system behaviour
  • human–robot interaction
  • robot–robot interaction
  • dependability, longevity and safety
  • actuation and locomotion
  • navigation, task and motion planning
  • software systems, architectures and tools

There are two funding streams:

  • Stream 1 is for projects of up to £100k and must be SME-led thought they can be collaborative with other businesses and research organisations (e.g. universities).
  • Stream 2 is for projects of £100k + and can be led by a larger business or SME. At least one SME must be involved in the consortium and research organisations can also take part.

In both streams the maximum contribution for research participants is 30% of the overall costs. If there is more than one research organisation participating this must be split between them. There are varying levels of contribution depending on the type of project (earlier stage technical feasibility or closer to market experimental development) and the size of business. Research organisations get the standard 80% of FEC as per normal Innovate UK/RCUK rules. Further details are in the competition guidance. There’s also a briefing webinar on 27th July which interested applicants should register to attend (only 20 tickets remaining at the time of posting!).

Northumbria staff: please get in touch if you are interested in applying.

 

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Innovation, impact and exploitation of results in Horizon 2020

The European IPR Helpdesk is holding a free IP training event on 11-12 September in Oxford. Horizon 2020 stresses the importance of systematic IP exploitation strategies to protect innovation and to reap commercial and economic benefits from EU-funded research. Day 1 will focus on IP and innovation management aspects at the proposal phase and day 2 will look at practical issues of IP exploitation during and after the project, including best practice in capturing and assessing IP as well as successful commercialisation of research results. More info and registration details. 

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New Economic Models in the Digital Economy

Bitcoin by Zach Copley CC BY-SAEPSRC has recently released a call for proposals to support cross-disciplinary research on new economic models in the digital economy. EPSRC are specifically targeting business schools and economics researchers, which it says have been under-represented in existing grants:

New Economic Models in the Digital Economy

Context

The digital economy challenges the way organisations work and do business. New technologies have revolutionized the way people relate to one another and are challenging traditional economic models and boundaries, as well as providing potential opportunities to create new ways of doing business: “To realise the economic potential of new technology, high quality research at the interfaces between the digital economy, economics and management sciences will be required and is of strategic importance to the UK.”

How do I apply?

There is £3.5M available in the call, which opened earlier this month and closes on 28th June. This is an invitation for outline proposals, and is not being run through Je-S. Applicants must fill in a short form with basic details of applicants, costs and project title as well as a three-page case for support, and send to EPSRC via email before the deadline. However, it’s worth noting that even outline applications should be properly costed before submission, so please contact RBS at an early stage if you intend to apply.

What are they looking for?

They want to see a mix of “people-based” networking and research activities which “complement the work of the DET Network+ ‘New Economic Models in the Digital Economy’” as well as the previously funded Digital Economy grants. The challenges to be addressed in this call are:

  • The Digital Economy and financial services
  • Collaborative consumption
  • Personal data
  • ‘Incomplete’ products and ‘Platform’ offerings

Further details

There are full details in the online guidance notes [PDF]. Outlines must address one or more of these challenges otherwise they’ll be considered outside the remit of the call. It’s also important to note that proposals must include both people-based and research activities (defined in the call guidance notes), not just one or the other.

EPSRC expect to fund 5 grants, suggesting an indicative value of £500K – £1M per grant. This is borne out by the values of the funded grants from the previous round, the maximum value of which is £1.1M, and the mean value is £822K.

Given the interdisciplinary focus this is likely to involve multiple institutions in a single proposal. Further, given the fact that applications must include both people-based and research activities, this would suggest that a duration of 2-3 years would be expected, although EPSRC do not give any indication of maximum length. Again, this is borne out by reviewing durations of previously funded grants, which are all 2-3 years in length.

Another interesting factor to consider is the inclusion of project partners (i.e. non-academic organisations). Given the topics and direction of the call, it’s likely that inclusion of relevant and active project partners will strengthen a bid, although it’s interesting to note that numbers of partners in existing projects varies from 0-21 in any single project.

It’s always essential to consider track record when deciding which institution and PI will lead a bid. Note that all of the grants funded in the previous round were led by research intensives and often included several other strong research institutions in the consortium. There were only a few grants which were based entirely within a single institution, including Cambridge and Imperial.

In line with the interdisciplinary focus of the theme, various disciplines were represented in grants funded under the previous call, including computer sciences, engineering, mathematics, economics and social sciences. This will be essential for the current call, and again it’s worth noting that EPSRC are targeting economics and business researchers for this call.

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Northumbria University – Innovation Project Awards

Design Process by Mazzarello Media and Arts CC BY-NC-SA 2.0Northumbria University has recently announced a new Innovation Project Awards scheme which enables the provision of up to £6000 of University funding towards qualifying R+D projects conducted by our research and consultancy staff.

Successful projects will be eligible for a 50% subsidy against the full project cost – maximum project value £12,000. The scheme is primarily aimed at attracting interactions with SMEs for work that is aligned with the expertise and research interests University.

The Innovation Project Award scheme is designed to promote collaborative innovation between the University and UK businesses.  This is a competitive fund managed by the University – there is no application or claim process for the business. The awards will be allocated to successful SME applicants who wish to engage with the University and its academics in helping to develop new products or services. Successful applications are expected to mainly fund small research projects, but could also include consultancy and technical services.

The first step is to contact our Business Team with your ideas. We will then review with colleagues in the appropriate research area and develop a project proposal to meet your requirements. The funding will be awarded following a University review process: preference will be given to those projects that could lead to future collaborative interactions.

Typical project length is between 1-3 months.  Please note that in-kind contributions cannot be accepted as part-payment. The business will be invoiced for 50% of the project value, up to a maximum of £6000 + VAT.

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