In seeking to exploit to best effect the opportunity offered by the ‘Pathways to Impact’ funding allocated by the EPSRC to Strathclyde University Dr. Trevor Cross of e2v Technologies Ltd UK was commissioned to conduct a brief assessment of the portfolio of recent research projects and current capabilities of the ABP research group at Strathclyde and to make a provisional identification of potential options for a more sustained drive to deliver economic impact within the framework of the Strathclyde University Knowledge Transfer Account scheme. Successful economic impact was categorised as wealth creation which would normally entail job creation of safe guarding within the United Kingdom. Dr Trevor Cross’s focus was on the creation of new products / services that are produced and / or exploited by an existing UK based company.
Dr. Trevor Cross’s key findings were the ABP group has a number of world firsts and is truly world class being competitive in its chosen fields of research with any of similar groups around the world. However the industry and markets based on the high power vacuum electronics are capital intensive – due to the high voltage and high power nature and the requirements for the generation of vacuum in the devices servicing specialised high margin markets. There are however three significant opportunities for growth of ABP research in the application space.
1/ Terahertz (THz) radiation sources which offer the potential of 100s of W at true THz frequencies – are just not available today. There is a range of scientific (Electron Paramagnetic Resonance Spectroscopy and Dynamic Nuclear Polarisation enhancement of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy), pharmaceutical and security related applications where the lack of any viable high intensity THz source has really prevented the exploitation, and in most cases the proper understanding, of THz radiation for imaging and spectrographic analysis. This area is one where there is scientific merit in extending the research into exactly what could be produced in terms of a source and it offers the opportunity for scientific world firsts. His recommendation was to continue research and consider conducting a significant literature, global capability and market research project in to the latest views of the requirements for THz sources - current and foreseen.
2/ Pathway into high power magnetron microwave sources – short term a new technology area for the group – medium and long term potential for ongoing high power research and new commercial market for higher power products via exploitation with e2v. This opportunity draws on the experience in high power RF modelling / testing and the general skills and capabilities of the group. E2v Ltd would like to find a way to get the research group’s staff much more familiar with the current state of the art of high power CW magnetron technology and limitations.
3/ Plasma Instabilities Research has major potential impact in the long term. This area appears to be quite unique and to have yielded some important scientific results. It has developed at Strathclyde on a parallel track and timescale to mainstream fusion energy research and technology. Importantly it has the opportunity to offer solutions to some of the current technology challenges in a number of areas of fusion research. The group report that the work has a high and international profile and that both RAL and Culham laboratories in the UK are strong supporters of this work. The delivery of effective fusion energy is a key, and some argue inevitable, part of the future of secure power generation with massive, global impact. The return to Strathclyde and the UK in over the next 5 years will be scientific and reputational rather than economic. Dr Trevor Cross’s recommendation is that this is an important area that should be sustained and given the major investments in non-fossil fuels energy supplies it would seem likely that it will be possible to win continuing grant funding for this area.
The EPSRC Pathways to Impact programme at the University of Strathclyde was aimed at driving and supporting the development of impact from excellent research.
Each project was managed by an EPSRC Impact Fellow with extensive experience in industry, and proven project management and commercialisation skills. The activities of the Impact Fellow were supported by a technical writer.
The Impact fellow worked alongside the EPSRC funded academic to identify routes to impact. He was provided with access to funding which provided targeted support for projects, in addition to the commercialisation and business development expertise that he provided. The University then engaged a technical writer to produce case studies. Lamppost banners, videos, and A1 posters are also being used as promotional materials. Promotional materials are available on the University website at: http://www.strath.ac.uk/impact/
The ABP group acted on recommendation two of Dr. Trevor Cross to setup a project funded directly by UK industry (e2v Technologies Ltd) to develop new numerical techniques for the design of high power CW Magnetrons.