Universities have a key role to play in economic and societal development, and the University of Leeds is making significant investments to support regional growth, innovation and opportunity.
With our strong background in commercialisation and our unrelenting focus on collaboration, we have a proven track record of helping the business sector in catalysing growth and productivity.
Our new innovation centre, Nexus, launching in late 2018, will build on this success and provide businesses with a new way of working with the University. It provides easy access to our world-leading academic research experts and facilities with particular focus on the health, data, environment and engineering.
Nexus is led by influential Director, Dr Martin Stow, who has a strong track record of working at senior levels within industry, for both multinationals and start-up organisations. Martin has a passion for driving forward innovation and collaboration between business and University researchers and will provide strong mentorship to ensure impactful outcomes are achieved.
"Together we will bring our world class ideas, concepts and technologies to deliver breakthrough solutions to real world, market-based problems. I see Nexus changing the mindset and culture in which universities and industry work together, promoting new standards of working, and generating economic growth, not just for Leeds but beyond,” he said.
Nexus will bring together a vibrant community of innovators, supported by state-of-the-art facilities and a dedicated team who work proactively with businesses to identify and create effective research partnerships that deliver commercial impact.
Alongside purpose built office and lab space for start-ups, SMEs and corporate teams Nexus offers a year round programme of events, seminars and workshops designed to provide expert advice and knowledge transfer and networking opportunities.
We are committed to ensuring the Leeds City Region continues to be an outstanding location for businesses to start-up and grow by offering seamless access to our groundbreaking research expertise. Through this Nexus will help industry tackle real-world problems on a varying scale, both regionally and globally.
Our impressive breadth of challenge-led research areas are led by some of the most highly-regarded researchers and problem-solvers in the world. The Government's Industrial Strategy highlights areas of excellence which are in abundance here at Leeds. We are spearheading our region’s strengths in health innovation and med-tech, advanced manufacturing, advanced materials, data and energy. We undertake cross-cutting and collaborative research with global companies, such as Procter and Gamble, with whom we have more than 20 joint research projects currently underway. And through our own spin-out companies we create regional jobs and opportunities.
Our efforts to promote growth within the region are further boosted by the recent announcement that the Leeds City Region team has successfully bid for a place on a prestigious leadership programme run by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), one of the world’s top universities. The Leeds City Region is one of just nine teams from around the world who will take part in the two-year Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP) which provides expert, evidence-based guidance for teams to bring about significant economic and social change in their region.
The Leeds City team includes leaders from the University of Leeds, Nexus, the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Leeds City Council, KPMG, Arup, Leeds Academic Health Partnership, and entrepreneurs Adam Beaumont and Ben Ziff.
Professor Lisa Roberts, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at the University of Leeds, led the Leeds bid and is the team “champion” for the programme.
She said: “This is a significant opportunity for us to come together as a collective force to further develop our ambitious innovation and growth plans.
“MIT has clearly identified the region as having key strengths to support the UK economy, in particular the Government’s plans for boosting growth and productivity.”
MIT REAP will allow us to build on our success within our thriving and successful city and further cement our civic roots. The University of Leeds contributes £1.3 billion to the UK economy, providing jobs for 6,500 people directly, and supporting a further 14,000 locally.
The Leeds City Region already has a strong regional ecosystem and Nexus will serve to strengthen this further by accelerating economic growth, creating more jobs and making the region more attractive to growing businesses.
More information is available here.
From atoms to robots
Leading-edge research is at the core of what we do in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at the University of Birmingham. From atoms to astronomy, computers to cars and robots to robust materials, the goal is to transform our understanding of the world to make life easier, healthier and more sustainable. Our video provides a snapshot of the variety of physical sciences research conducted at the University.
Putting the smarts in robots
The Intelligent Robotics Laboratory and Professor Jeremy Wyatt develop algorithms that enable robots to work in uncertain and unfamiliar worlds. With a focus on autonomous robot planning, architectures for robot intelligence, robots that learn, robot manipulation, machine vision and general machine learning, they aim to endow a robot with explicit representations of what it does and doesn't know, and of how its knowledge changes under the actions it can perform. This ability will allow robots to plan in challenging worlds where they know little.
Advanced manufacturing methods
The Materials Processing group is based in the University’s School of Metallurgy and Materials. Their research programme is carried out in the Advanced Materials and Processing Laboratory and aims at understanding the influence of advanced materials processing techniques.
The scientific emphasis is on understanding material-process interactions, utilising electron microscopy, synchrotron X-rays and neutron diffraction, and micro-tomography, to assess the impact of the processing method on the microstructural, structural integrity, and residual stress development. The group hosts unique experimental systems, making it one of the centres of excellence in netshape manufacturing in the UK.
The research is conducted in close collaboration with a large number of industrial end-users in the aerospace, defence, nuclear, and engineering sectors.
Blending the best of the real with the best of the virtual
Established in 2003, the team are a multidisciplinary group of award-winning researchers focused on human-centred research and design issues relevant to future interactive technologies. Led by Professor Bob Stone and based in the University’s Department of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering, their research covers task and usability analysis; human factors integration; ergonomics; the design and evaluation of advanced interfaces, including wearable computing, virtual, augmented and ‘mixed’ reality; and telerobotics and telepresence projects. They deliver research on behalf of and in collaboration with a range of partners in the defence, healthcare, heritage and telerobotics / telepresence sectors.
Affects all aspects of life
Dr. Karl Dearn leads the Mason Institute of Tribology and applies mechanical principles and design methodologies to solve challenges in tribological challenges in engineering design. This multidisciplinary research encompasses the development of polymers and composites for energy applications, novel automotive technology, the design and optimisation of biomedical implants and further research in fundamental polymer tribology.
Making energy clean
The work of the Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage (BCES) and its Director, Professor Yulong Ding sits within University’s Birmingham Energy Institute, a 140-member strong partnership changing the way we deliver, consume and think about energy. BCES research is driving innovation and taking concepts from the laboratory to market.
Cryogenic energy storage (CES) systems use off-peak electricity to liquefy air. The cryogenic liquid that is formed is stored in a vessel then vapourised into a gas during an expansion process, which drives a turbine. This system generates electricity when it is most needed; solving the ‘wrong-time wrong-place’ generation and supply problem.
Cryogenic liquid can additionally be used to improve the efficiency of diesel generators, which are routinely used as reserve capacity on the grid. The system is also an efficient mechanism for generating electricity from low-grade waste heat from power stations or industrial processes. Unlike some other energy storage technologies, CES does not require scarce resource, and is not limited by geography or geology.
Find out more
To learn more about our industrial collaborations please visit our website or contact our Business Engagement Partner Sam Hickman.
The University of Sheffield has won a bid which will fund a new project, in collaboration with the universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Newcastle and industrial and health sector partners to drive forward collaboration concerned with the Internet of Things.
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the interconnection of computing capability in everyday objects at work and home. The IoT supports a host of so-called 'smart' applications ranging from industrial process control, such as remotely monitoring when a factory machine needs maintenance, through to enhanced support for patients with dementia such as reminding someone to take their medicine. It is estimated that we will have 50 billion connected elements online within the next decade. Effective implementation of IoT is critical to industrial, societal and economic development in the UK.
Sheffield, the lead university of the successful bid has been awarded £4.9m million by Research England’s Connecting Capability fund (CCF) to fund the Promoting the Internet of Things via Collaborations between HEIs & Industry (Pitch-In) project.
The Pitch-In collaboration will benefit the UK as a whole via wide-scale collaboration between academic institutions coupled with an extensive network of public and private sector collaborators. The project, led by the University of Sheffield, will investigate the barriers to successful IoT take-up, trial solutions, and capture and share good practice learning outcomes. The collaborative project will also disseminate guidance regionally, nationally and globally and will support the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy by significantly enhancing the commercialisation and wider exploitation prospects of UK IoT research and technology.
Professor John Clark from the Department of Computer Science at the University of Sheffield said: “The Internet of Things underpins much of the current drive to increased industrial automation and enhanced services and is set to have major impact on most of our lives."
"The Research England Pitch-In collaboration between Sheffield, Newcastle, Oxford and Cambridge will enhance the universities' ability to work with each other and with their regions to promote adoption of the Internet of Things, particularly in manufacturing, health, smart cities and energy.
“Our inclusion of management and social sciences experts also allows us to take a more holistic approach to facilitating IoT collaborations. With the help of some major industrial collaborators, such as the global engineering organisation Siemens, sector and technology specialists and networks such as the High Value Manufacturing and Digital Catapults and the Northern Health Sciences Alliance, regulatory authorities such as OFGEM, and increasing engagement of businesses of various sizes, we have the potential to increase the adoption and exploitation of IoT technology in our regions and beyond, and consequently bring significant societal benefits. We undoubtedly have a world class collaboration and I’m delighted to be leading this initiative."
David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England said: “These projects demonstrate the commitment of universities to work together to strengthen the R&D and technological capabilities of the UK building upon our successful Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF). In the Industrial Strategy, the Government asked us to improve our ability to turn exciting ideas into commercial products and services. Universities have stepped forward in these projects to show that they can do world class commercialisation, alongside world class science.
“I believe these projects present important innovations that should inform our strategic approach to commercialisation in UK Research and Innovation for the future.”
The Connecting Capability Fund supports universities in working together and with businesses and other partners to commercialise research and share good practice and capacity. The Fund is highlighted in the Government’s Industrial Strategy and will help achieve its aims of enhancing UK industrial competitiveness and productivity. It builds on established processes and the success of Research England’s HEIF programme.
In an innovative and visionary collaboration, academics from the University of Birmingham are working with marketing communications agency Big Cat to explore the impact of figurative messages within advertising using state-of-the- art technologies.
With a specialist focus on supporting non-profit organisations and ethical advertising campaigns, this partnership will use the latest academic research techniques such as eye tracking software to underpin active advertising campaigns.
Conducted by Professor Jeannette Littlemore, Dr Paula Perez-Sobrino, and Samantha Ford BA (Hons), the research is focusing on how information is presented to viewers and how they respond to it.
Professor Jeannette Littlemore, Applied Linguistics, University of Birmingham explained, “Figurative messaging - or metaphor and metonymy, can appear in words, images and sound, and are useful tool in advertising. We might talk about women ‘hitting a glass ceiling’ in their career. No real ceilings are being hit in this metaphor but a comparison is being made between career progression chances and invisible yet solid ceilings. In metonymy, people refer to things by mentioning a related entity, so they might use the term ‘Hollywood’ to refer to the mainstream American film industry, or 9/11 to refer to the events that took place on that date.
“More than ever Universities and businesses need to collaborate to address shared challenges. By working with Big Cat we will be able to put our academic work into practice in the public environment and deliver serious impact for non-profit organisations.”
“Through the use of eye-tracking technology, qualitative interviewing, and Electrodermal activity measurement, we aim to establish a more nuanced understanding of people’s reactions to advertising material and how to improve its messaging.
“We are thrilled to be working with such a vibrant and forward-looking marketing communications agency and can’t wait to take their research out of the lab and into the real world.”
The current research was born out of the EMMA (Exploring Multimodal Metaphor (and Metonymy) in Advertising) project that ran from 2015-2017 which was led by the University of Birmingham. This project will build on existing expertise and further the success of academic-industry collaborations that arose during EMMA.
Anthony Tattum, Big Cat Managing Director said “The benefit to industry is tangible: Big Cat will be able to better assess and understand audiences’ responses, leading to the creation of more effective, impactful, and ethical communication and advertising strategies.
“We’re extremely excited about strengthening our relationship with the University of Birmingham through this exclusive partnership which will provide access to innovative technologies that are currently revolutionising the advertising industry.
“At Big Cat we are an insight driven agency where data informs all of our communications. By using powerful tools such as the biometric technology to analyse behaviour of consumers, we will be provided with a wealth of information that conventional research methods would normally miss. Those insights will be hugely valuable in helping us to engage better with the emotions of the relevant audiences and using them to inform and maximise our clients advertising campaigns.”
Jeannette added, “More than ever Universities and businesses need to collaborate to address shared challenges. By working with Big Cat we will be able to put our academic work into practice in the public environment and deliver serious impact for non-profit organisations.”
In the first instance, Big Cat will be using the research on clients including Solihull Community Housing (SCH), the arm’s length management organisation set up to run the housing service on behalf of Solihull Council and Aspire, a national charity that provides practical help to people who have been paralysed by Spinal Cord Injury.
Aston University and Zenzero Solutions Limited are entering into a two-and-a-half-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership involving a research project to help make Zenzero’s software systems more intelligent.
Founded in 2004, Zenzero is an innovative IT solutions company offering IT services and support to businesses of all sizes and sectors.
The company, based in Warwick, currently has two strands of its business offering: managed IT services and support; and bespoke software development. This latter has huge potential for growth - and the KTP between Aston and Zenzero will be helping to strengthen this area.
Zenzero’s existing product, Metal, is a sophisticated stock management and cutting planning software tool for high-value steels, such as steel used for creating tools. The software already has unique features to record the history of individual stock items as they are being cut and returned to stock, but Zenzero would like to develop this product even further to create greater automation. This would create a software product that could minimise scrap when cutting, create less waste as well as reducing operational costs.
This KTP project will be looking to introduce elements of artificial intelligence to the product, drawing on Aston's expertise in computational intelligence and machine learning.
Zenzero will be working with Aston to develop a deeper understanding of mathematical modelling, the development of algorithms, machine learning technology for data mining, and the development of predictive tools that can identify patterns in orders. This knowledge will create an intelligent software tool that will open wider commercial opportunities for the company.
Dr Peter Lewis of Aston: “This KTP answers a highly complex, dynamic real-world problem, which will incorporate the application of many emerging techniques in this area. This further strengthens Aston’s reputation as a leader in this field, and will impact our Computer Science students as our syllabus will be informed by the project findings.”
Anne Tasker, Managing Director at Zenzero: “We are delighted to be part of this KTP with Aston University. We have the opportunity to really showcase the value that the commercial and academic domains can bring when they work together, drawing on expertise from both sides. The development of this one of a kind product has the potential to bring significant benefits to the manufacturing industry. It’s a very exciting project!”
For more information on how Aston could help your business to grow, please email RKE@aston.ac.uk or find out more about the Aston Lab for Intelligent Collectives Engineering.