UCL researchers have secured two of the five new joint industry-academia research partnerships announced by the Royal Academy of Engineering to address complex engineering challenges facing society.
Professor Dan Brett and Professor Adrien Desjardins (both UCL Engineering) have each been appointed Research Chairs, which are prestigious five-year positions co-sponsored by an industrial partner that allow awardees to establish a world-leading research group in their engineering field.
Professor Brett (UCL Chemical Engineering and the Electrochemical Innovation Lab) will develop measurement tools to support the fundamental change needed in the way vehicles are powered.
Electric mobility is one of the fastest-growing industries on the planet and is essential to meet the UK government’s legally binding commitments on climate change, including a ban on new diesel and petrol car sales by 2030. There is a seismic shift away from conventional piston engine powered propulsion to electrochemical solutions such as batteries, fuel cells and supercapacitors.
Collaborating with HORIBA MIRA and the National Physical Laboratory, Professor Brett’s research aims to make the UK a world-leader, both scientifically and commercially, in metrology for electrochemical power systems.
Professor Brett said: "This Research Chair combines fundamental engineering innovations from the Electrochemical Innovation Lab at UCL and the National Physical Laboratory’s world-leading metrology with a route to market for our innovations, instruments and services in the form of HORIBA MIRA. The prestige that accompanies a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair lends significant credibility and provides a strong mandate for the activity. This will help attract stakeholders and draw attention to the critical need for metrology innovation in the rapidly evolving vehicle propulsion industries."
Professor Adrien Desjardins (UCL Medical Physics & Biomedical engineering) aims to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular patients by developing all-optical ultrasound imaging probes for real-time visualisation of tissues and medical devices from inside the body.
A multidisciplinary, collaborative effort between UCL and spinout Echopoint Medical, this project will focus attention and stimulate connections across many fields, including optics, ultrasound, materials science and medical device design, thereby creating a knowledge base to speed up the translation of future biomedical sensing innovations.
Echopoint Medical uses advanced fibre optic technology to transform the diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular (CV) disease. The underlying technology was developed by a team led by Professor Desjardins in the Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering.
Professor Desjardins said: "I anticipate that this partnership with Echopoint Medical will enable UCL innovations to significantly improve the diagnosis and treatment of patients in the UK and worldwide. The research will have a transformational impact on the technology readiness level of all-optical ultrasound, progressing from its robust foundation with pre-clinical demonstrations to a first-in-human study."
Commenting on the appointments, Professor Karen Holford CBE FREng FLSW, Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University and Chair of the Academy’s Research Committee, said: "These awardees illustrate brilliantly how expert engineering researchers, when partnered with industry, underpin the success of UK engineering research and innovation. The kind of work we are seeing illustrates why government has demonstrated such confidence in the economic value of our sector through its Innovation Strategy."
Echopoint Medical was set up with assistance from UCL. To date the company has attracted £2.8 million in funding from the UCL Technology Fund (managed by AlbionVC in collaboration with UCLB, part of UCL Innovation & Enterprise), Parkwalk Advisors and Innovate UK.
Professor David Price, Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement) said: "The fact that two of the five research partnerships have been awarded to UCL academics shows the strength of our work in addressing complex challenges we face today. Working with industry is a key way for us to maximise public benefit from our research, and I am particularly pleased to see the partnership with UCL spinout Echopoint Medical, which should deliver faster diagnosis and treatment for CV patients around the world."