Queen Mary’s first ever science and engineering research and industrial engagement conference took place on Thursday 6th November, showcasing our work to an audience of top businesses.
The Research and Industrial Engagement Showcase 2014 was a major event bringing together academics from across the Faculty of Science and Engineering with representatives of businesses and funding bodies in QMUL’s People’s Palace.
Organised by Kalpana Chaturvedi, Business Development-Science and Engineering and her team, the day was a chance for potential collaborators to see the breadth of research taking place in the faculty and to meet the researchers responsible. Summarising the benefit of the event while looking around the lunchtime exhibition one representative of an aerospace and defence information systems company said: “We know parts of QMUL’s work very well but this is an opportunity to see different aspects of it.”
After a greeting from Professor Simon Gaskell, QMUL Principal and President, representatives of the Faculty of Science and Engineering’s five schools – Engineering and Materials Science, Biological and Chemical Sciences, Electronic Engineering and Computer Science, Physics and Astronomy, and Mathematical Sciences – presented the highlights of their school’s recent research.
Among others, Professor Yan Fyodorov talked about work in the School of Mathematics on modelling the impacts of repeat flooding and Professor Pat Healey of the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science spoke about the Media and Arts Technology Programme.
The morning session ended with a keynote speech from Professor Phil Nelson, the new Chief Executive of the Engineering and Physics Research Council, a major draw for many of those at the event.
Over lunch there was a showcase of research from groups around the faculty during which a representative of IBM could be seen discussing the use of our understanding of the Higgs Boson to improve distributed computing and Parmi Matharu of Rockwell Collins discussed multi constellation GNSS systems with Dr Akram Alomainy from the Antennas and Electromagnetics Research Group, an expert in the area.
Around them 40 research posters presented work on topics as diverse as early warning systems for disasters, particle scattering experiments at CERN, identification systems for CCTV, immersive shared virtual environments and using mobile phone data to track infectious diseases.
Live demonstrations from academics and researchers from across the faculty showcased wide-ranging research including Real and Virtual Engagement in Realistic Immersive Environments (REVERIE), ultra-high data rate millimetre wave body-centric communications, bio-inspired smart-material-based electrically tuneable lenses, wearable smart-material-based tactile displays for virtual interactions with soft bodies, AND zebrafish behavioural analysis.
Later in the day delegates heard case-studies from QMUL researchers and their business collaborators. Co-chair of the session Professor James Busfield introduced the many ways that companies can fund collaborative work with the university, including sponsored research assistants and PhD students, contract consultancy and masters projects which he said could provide useful focus to a great deal of smaller research projects.
During this session, Dr Steve Dunn, presenting his work with Helitune Ltd on self-powered sensors that scavenge energy from their environment, said “working with business gives us access to markets that we might not otherwise have” and that the market pull on his research was inspiring.
Peter Morrish of Helitune Ltd said that for an SME like them, collaboration gave access to a breadth of research and innovation they would not otherwise be able to afford. In only a few months of collaboration the partnership has already produced working technology and Peter ended by saying that “QMUL have been very easy and fair to work with. It’s been a great experience.”
Also co-chairing the session, Gerry Reilly from IBM echoed Peter’s enthusiasm for collaboration by saying that “collaboration can be equally useful for a company the size of IBM or an SME.”
Sacha Krstulović of Audio Analytic and Professor Mark Plumbley of QMUL both spoke about how working together had encouraged them to think about their own fields in a much broader way. Sacha said that collaboration is helping the company think about diverse approaches to their business and Professor Plumbley said that “commercial interests and their particular challenges can drive the creation of new research questions.”
Throughout the day businesses and academics had the opportunity to meet and discuss their work as well as the ways in which collaboration can work for everyone. Gerry Reilly summed up the mood of the event saying “industry benefits from the different ways of thinking that academia brings.”
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