Plastic waste recycling, carbon dioxide capture, bamboo-timber composite beams for buildings, and 3D reconstructed human skin for cosmetic screening are among the innovative technologies that will be developed through new university-business collaborations supported by funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Nineteen mid-career researchers have been awarded RAEng Industrial Fellowships by the Academy, giving them an opportunity to gain industrial experience by working on a collaborative research project with industry.

Left to right: Dr Abhishek Kundu, Dr Elena Simone, Dr Huiling Zhu, Andrea Lecchini Visintini, Dr Solomon Brown, Dr Eirini Velliou, Dr Basel Halak, Dr Hexin (Johnson) Zhang, Dr Kit Windows-Yule, Dr Liu Yang

The RAEng Industrial Fellowships are intended to strengthen links between universities and industry and to encourage the development of new collaborative partnerships. Awardees gain first-hand experience of working in an industrial environment and can familiarise themselves with current industry practices, helping them to improve the industrial relevance of their academic research and teaching.

Most placements range from six months full-time to one year part-time with the scheme covering the salary costs of each awardee. However, additional flexibility is now possible within the scheme and six of the 19 new awards made will last for at least two years.

Left to right: Dr Mathieu Lucquiaud, Dr Mehreen Gul, Dr Stefanos Aldo Papanicolopulos, Dr Mike Jennings, Dr Mohammed El-Hajjar

Over the past five years the RAEng Industrial Fellowships scheme has supported 58 researchers to complete placements with 53 different industrial partners, covering a wide variety of engineering disciplines.

Left to right: Dr Mustafa Aziz, Dr Raziyeh Farmani, Dr Mehrnoosh Sadrzadeh, Dr Jongrae Kim

The 2019 awardees, industrial partners and projects are:

Dr Mustafa Aziz, University of Exeter and Modelling Engineering & Development Company Limited

Coiled tubing integrity monitoring system

This collaborative project aims to develop a real-time, non-destructive monitoring system for the inspection of coiled-tubing steel pipes in the oil and gas well services industry. This tool will provide early warning of failure in the pipes to avoid environmental and health risks and enable efficient management of coiled-tubing operations.

Dr Solomon Brown, University of Sheffield and Drax Coporate Limited

Unlocking the potential of bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) in the UK

The UK has agreed to reduce net emissions to zero by the second half of the century. For sectors that are challenging to decarbonise, net-negative emissions such as BECCS present a potential solution. Dr Brown’s research investigates how to develop an economically sustainable path of deployment for this key technology.

Dr Mohammed El-Hajjar, University of Southampton and interDigital

Intelligent holographic MIMO transceiver design for next generation wireless systems

The demand for wireless access will soon surpass the data transfer capacity of existing mobile systems. Wireless systems use the available degrees of freedom of frequency, time, code and space. Dr El-Hajjar will investigate the design and analysis of holographic multiple-input and multiple-output (MIMO) using the space dimension to reduce complexity and cost.

Dr Raziyeh Farmani, University of Exeter and Severn Trent Water

Digital solutions for resilient urban water systems

Advances in sensors and data management allow water infrastructure decisions to be more targeted and guided by information about systems’ performance. Professor Farmani’s research develops analytical tools to analyse big data from smart sensors, identifies vulnerabilities and informs infrastructure planning, design, operation and management decisions to improve resilience.

Dr Mehreen Gul, Heriot-Watt University and Wood

Characterisation of bifacial photovoltaic (BPV) modules

Solar power system manufacturers provide electrical parameters at standard-test conditions. This is not helpful in estimating actual energy yield owing to their intrinsic non-linear electrical behaviour and variability in environmental conditions. Dr Gul is developing a methodology for predicting BPV performance in real conditions, accounting accurately for rear-side, ground-albedo and electrical characteristics.

Dr Basel Halak, University of Southampton and Arm Holdings

Securing hardware supply chain with an unforgeable root of trust

Dr Halak creates infrastructures to enforce reliable tracking of electronic systems that mitigate against hardware attacks. This will be achieved by building a detailed threat model of the integrated circuits supply chain. It also involves designing an unforgeable root of trust for each computing device and developing new security defence mechanisms.

Dr Mike Jennings, Swansea University and Newport Wafer Fab

Novel power transistors for automotive application

The most efficient electric vehicles will be based on silicon carbide (SiC) or gallium nitride (GaN) transistors (replacing silicon) in power electronic converters. Drawing on 15 years’ experience in this field, Dr Jennings will work with a global leader in chip manufacture to develop SiC and GaN devices for automobiles.

Dr Jongrae Kim, University of Leeds and Craft Prospect Ltd

Develop automated systems engineering procedure for CubeSat design and analysis

CubeSat is a micro satellite, and its small mass and size make it ideal for performing space missions at minimal cost. Dr Kim aims to develop automated design and analysis algorithms using model-based systems engineering. These will generate detailed system specifications and design requirements to optimise design parameters and improve the autonomy of CubeSat.

Dr Abhishek Kundu, Cardiff University and Airbus Operations Limited

Data-driven robust optimisation of aircraft wings in early stage design

Early stage industrial design of aircraft wings can be challenging owing to the uncertainties that stem from design immaturity and sparse aircraft loading information. In collaboration with Airbus, Dr Kundu will use industrial mathematics to develop a data-driven, robust inverse design solution based on machine learning.

Dr Andrea Lecchini-Visintini, University of Leicester and Rolls-Royce Control Systems

Fueldraulic actuation systems for the next generation of turbofan engines

The fueldraulic (fuel-based hydraulic) system of Rolls-Royce turbofan engines performs the actuation of the variable geometry of the engine. Next generation engines are expected to be 25% more fuel efficient and their systems will include multiple parallel actuators. This project focuses on control laws for these new enhanced systems.

Dr Mathieu Lucquiaud, University of Edinburgh and C-Capture Ltd

Innovation in technologies for carbon dioxide capture

This collaboration aims to demonstrate a new concept for large-scale deployment and cost reduction of carbon dioxide absorbers, the largest component of the carbon dioxide capture process. Dr Lucquiaud also aims to increase the flexibility of capture to complement variable renewable energy in low-carbon energy systems.

Dr Stefanos Aldo Papanicolopulos, University of Edinburgh and DEM Solutions Ltd

Discrete-element modelling of elongated cylindrical particles

Particulate materials are ubiquitous in nature and in industry. Their numerical simulation is increasingly performed using the discrete element method, usually considering spherical particles. This is unrealistic for elongated particles such as fibres. Dr Papanicolopulos’s research will offer more efficient methodologies for modelling through detailed consideration of implementation, validation and calibration.

Dr Mehrnoosh Sadrzadeh, University College London and Research and Development, British Broadcasting Corporation

Cross domain unified representations for content similarity

Dr Sadrzadeh’s research allows vast quantities of data from radio, news articles and TV programmes to be categorised and analysed using advanced mathematical theory and computational methods. She aims to develop a unified mathematical model to represent this data, compute degrees of similarity and correlate these with users' behaviours and preferences.

Dr Elena Simone, University of Leeds and Syngenta

A multi-sensor approach to design and control of multiphase/multicomponent crystallisation processes

Dr Simone is developing a robust multi-sensor approach that integrates signals from multiple online and offline measurements to better understand and control multiphase/multicomponent crystallisation processes. In collaboration with Syngenta, Dr Simone is working on real, complex crystallisation processes to develop an approach that is directly applicable in industry.

Dr Eirini Velliou, University of Surrey and Unilever Ltd

Development of next-generation 3D reconstructed human skin

This collaborative project aims to engineer a bio-inspired 3D human skin equivalent. A novel ‘skin-bioreactor’ with tuneable structure and perfusion will be made and then validated by using transdermal permeation studies of Unilever products. The skin bioreactor will serve as a low cost, animal-free skin surrogate for cosmetics screening.

Dr Kit Windows-Yule, University of Birmingham and Recycling Technologies

Optimising heat and particle transport in novel waste-plastic recycling processes

Plastic waste represents a global challenge. Dr Windows-Yule is developing a novel plastic-waste-recycling technology that uses fluidised beds to convert waste plastics into new feedstocks and clean, low-sulphur fuels. Using cutting-edge techniques, this project will enable direct imaging of the dynamics of these systems to help make them more efficient.

Dr Liu Yang, University of Strathclyde and The Weir Group PLC

A paradigm shift towards non-metallic centrifugal slurry pumps

Dr Yang is developing a new design methodology underpinned by non-metallic lightweight composite technology for the next generation of centrifugal slurry pumps in the mining industry. Collaborative research will drive scientific and industrial advances towards highly efficient centrifugal pumps with improved safety, low production costs and extended lifetime.

Dr Hexin (Johnson) Zhang, Edinburgh Napier University and Intelligent Wood Systems Ltd

Innovative engineered bamboo-timber composite materials

Based on a successful proof-of-concept study, Dr Zhang’s project aims to develop several types of innovative bamboo-timber composite beams for buildings. The knowledge and industrial experience obtained from this research will inform teaching materials to give students first-hand industrial experience.

Dr Huiling Zhu, University of Kent and British Telecom Group

Machine learning techniques for future mobile networks

Dr Zhu’s research interests are focused on wireless communications, including radio resource management, massive MIMO, device-to-device communications, machine learning, Cloud RAN (an architecture for cellular networks), and heterogeneous networks.

Notes to editors

  1. The RAEng Industrial Fellowships provide an invaluable opportunity for mid-career academics to undertake a collaborative research project in an industrial environment. This scheme aims to strengthen the strategic relationship between the university and the industry host by providing an opportunity to establish or enhance collaborative research between the two parties.

The next round of Industrial Fellowships will be launched in November 2019. In addition to a 6-month route, applicants have the option to hold the Industrial Fellowship for up to 2 years’ full time. The scheme is open to engineers from all disciplines and provides funding to cover the basic salary cost of the applicant. Awards will be capped at a maximum of £50k per annum (excluding overheads) which equates to a total of £100k for fellowships which exceed 2 years, paid pro-rata against the amount of time to be spent at the industry host.

  1. Royal Academy of Engineering

As the UK’s national academy for engineering and technology, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers from academia and business – our Fellows – to advance and promote excellence in engineering for the benefit of society.

We harness their experience and expertise to provide independent advice to government, to deliver programmes that help exceptional engineering researchers and innovators realise their potential, to engage the public with engineering and to provide leadership for the profession.

We have three strategic priorities:

  • Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation and businesses
  • Address the engineering skills and diversity challenge
  • Position engineering at the heart of society

We bring together engineers, policy makers, entrepreneurs, business leaders, academics, educators and the public in pursuit of these goals.

Engineering is a global profession, so we work with partners across the world to advance engineering’s contribution to society on an international, as well as a national scale.

For more information please contact:

Jorge Ospina at the Royal Academy of Engineering

T: 020 7766 0651

E: Jorge.ospina@raeng.org.uk