You are in: Submissions > Select unit of assessment > UOA 25 General Engineering and Mineral & Mining Engineering > Staffordshire University > RA5a

UOA 25 - General Engineering and Mineral & Mining Engineering

Staffordshire University

RA5a: Research environment and esteem

 

 

Research Environment

Research Students and studentships 

In this RAE period the number of Research Doctorates awarded was 17 (0.47/FTE/Annum), the income was £3.2 million (£73k/FTE/annum), and there was an average of 1.5 MPhil-PhD students/FTE/annum (as illustrated in Table 1).

Research Strategy.

Following the 2001 research assessment exercise the engineering programme area made a conscious decision to rationalise and combine the existing electrical, electronic and mechanical research groups (RAE-2001) into one applied Engineering Research Group (ERG) and concentrate its activities on identifiable strengths in three “themes”: 

  • Applied Engineering Design (Al-Shemmeri, Cheshire)
  • Electronic Devices and Materials (Carrasco [B], Sadat-Shafai, Shammas)
  • Medical Engineering (Moorcroft, Ogrodnik, Thomas [C])

The three themes coincide with the research and development activities for the region (Advantage West Midlands: AWM) and for the nation (BERR). The five-year plan is to enable the three themes to develop and grow into groups in their own right.

Table 1 demonstrates that we have successfully managed the transition from disparate research groups into a single, strong entity; and we have developed the capability to attract significant funding. Currently we are developing projects to support our themes, specifically FP7 projects in Sustainable Energy, Photonics, and Medical Devices Design. The University also plans to support this strategy by developing a brand new facility in Stoke on Trent, the Wedgwood-Mitchell Centre for Engineering Excellence. We are currently developing a multi-million pound business plan with the University’s Executive.

Table 1: Annual research output profile for ERG

 

 

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

total

PhD awarded

4

3

4

3

2

-

1

17

Registered postgraduate students

15

13

11

8

5

11

12

10.7 average per year 

Studentships

7

0

2

0

1

2

1

13

Refereed journal papers

16

3

13

3

2

1

7

46

Conference presentations

15

11

13

11

19

17

12

97

Technical Papers

 

 

1

1

 

4

2

8

Patents / IP  /licence

1

 

 

 

4

1

2

8

Awards (shortlisted/winner)

 

 

 

 

3

1

2

6

Visiting Professors/Fellows

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

 

Income 

 14,488 

 6,580 

 76,464 

 644,574 

 782,816 

 1,135,513 

540,790

3,201,226

 

Research Structure 

 

ERG hosts 21 academic staff (7 lead researchers submitted here, 11 research staff, 3 knowledge transfer staff) and 7 technicians.  It is managed by an inclusive steering committee and led by the staff named in this submission. 

ERG has a broad funding base. Research funding bodies, industry and technology transfer funds support its activities. Our philosophy is to provide solutions to “real world” problems; this funding approach enables us to meet our aspirations. 

 

Operational structure

The University Plan 2007[1] sets out our core research strategies and policies. The University Research Committee manages the strategic development, implementation and monitoring thereof. It is responsible for the co-ordination and allocation of University resources for research to individual Faculties based on past performance, quality, and strategic plans. The Faculties have a high degree of autonomy and delegated authority to use allocated research funds (c £144k per annum for this Faculty) to match their own priorities within approved programmes. The Faculty’s research is organised by the Faculty Research Strategy Committee (FRSC), chaired by the Director for Research and Enterprise. ERG is a research group within the Faculty’s Informatics and Technology Research Institute (ITRI).  

MPhil/PhD registrations are dealt with directly by the Faculty’s Postgraduate Research Degrees Sub-Committee (PRDSC) which also monitors all of the Faculty’s research degrees.  Any new research students are required to have their programme of study ratified by the PRDSC.  It is this committee that ensures that all of the relevant criteria for a research degree have been met which is ratified at University level by the University Research Degrees Committee. Equally any research programme that requires ethical approval has to be further approved by the Faculty’s Ethics Committee. The PRDSC handles transfers from MPhil to PhD through an internal process but one requiring an independent assessor. This ensures that appropriate standards are being met and that the progress of research students is monitored.

Mechanisms for promotion of research

All academic staff are encouraged to participate in research. The Faculty is able to pump-prime projects, using established criteria for the selection, by giving financial support in the form of scholarships and studentships and for the procurement of capital items. All academic staff are able to request a research allocation against teaching commitment to support their research activities. To provide an additional pool of potential researchers (and research projects) we have developed a unique work based MSc by individual research which is accredited for partial fulfilment of the CEng. This also provides a valuable link with industry creating clear progression to further research PhD, and is an excellent vehicle for attracting industrial research projects and high quality postgraduate students.

 

Research student training and facilities

All research students undergo compulsory formal research training as a part of their study programme. In addition students are advised and encouraged, where appropriate, to take specialised M-Level modules to support their research programmes. All ERG postgraduate students have dedicated, individual office space supported by IT, library and support infrastructures.

We have facilities covering our breadth of expertise and we share our resources in order to foster collaborative research. ERG has two laboratories covering Electronics and Power; two laboratories covering CAD/CAM, and environmental engineering; and we further benefit from virtual reality resources at The Hothouse (a dedicated centre supporting the ceramics industries based in Stoke on Trent). We have a medical technology laboratory and, with the University Hospital of North Staffordshire (UHNS), host a weekly research clinic and we have access to its bionics laboratory. ERG also houses the Midlands’ Electronics Design centre (EDC). Examples of industry sponsored research equipment are:  a heat exchanger wind tunnel (£100k), inter-harmonic generator (£50k), Alias Studio Design software (£96k), and a total vacuum system (£50k). Where appropriate, some of the projects are undertaken within our industrial partners’ facilities (AREVA for example).

ERG enjoys many unique facilities including a company-sponsored Motion Capture studio, notwithstanding the close working partnership with the UHNS that has created a resource of World Class Status in relation to Fracture Management research. The group has had a new design resource built, The newly built Ruxton Technology Centre (c£2.5 million), which houses state of the art CAD, Computer Aided Analysis, and rapid-prototyping facilities.

 

Collaboration

The University Plan 20071 encourages collaboration. Our local collaborative projects range from KTPs and AWM sponsored Knowledge Transfer to commercial research. We work closely with our regional partners to ensure that our international research activity fits into the wider regional picture. The central office of Enterprise and Commercial Development provides links to funding to support our activity. Recently we have been awarded an EPSRC travel grant (c£50k) to support our FP7 activities. We undertake the majority of knowledge transfer and KTP activity for the University. For example, we have conducted 85 Manufacturing-Advisory-Service funded projects for local industry (c£0.25million) and hosted 9 KTPs (£0.65million). Our research activities are linked to regional and national themes for R&D and innovation (i.e., medical technologies, photonics, environment and energy); we work closely with the local RDA to support their regional research and development strategies and their aspirations on a European / Global stage.

Regional Collaboration

Recently Al-Shemmeri collaborated with Talbott Heat and Power on a £1 million project concerned with Bio-Mass fuelled power stations; it has secured another £0.5million to continue this work. We have secured further funding (£0.4million) to support the Electronic Design Centre. Staff from within ERG worked closely with AWM to secure funding to enable a knowledge transfer project supporting design led industries (c£3.5 million), and further secured c£1.75 million to undertake similar knowledge transfer based projects for the whole of the West Midlands medical devices industry. We worked with partners in other related disciplines to secure funding for the regional Mobile and Wireless Communications Network (£ 2.5 million). Prof Thomas (visiting professor), from the UHNS, has worked closely with this group for some 15 years. Links with the UHNS are very strong and many of the registrars going through clinical rotation conduct research in collaboration with ERG whilst doing their training.

National Collaboration

Staff from ERG are encouraged to work with national partners; examples of academic partners with whom we are working are: Imperial College, St Andrews University, Keele University, University of Sheffield, University of Northumbria, UWE Bristol, Aston University, University of Nottingham, UCE Birmingham, Loughborough University and Warwick University. Several active researchers staff are associated with external bodies, such as the Royal Academy of Engineering (Ogrodnik), promoting research to the wider community. ERG organises its own seminars and meetings and is closely linked with the IET, IMechE and IED for research promotion.

International Collaboration

Prof Xu (visiting Professor), from the Guangxi University of Technology, China is spending a year (2007-2008) with ERG developing research collaborations in rotating machine design. Our staff are regularly invited to present keynote lectures and presentations; for example Ogrodnik, Shammas and Thomas are regularly invited to give keynote speeches / invited lectures to industry, end users and learned societies. Examples of academic partners with whom we are working are: Technical University of Hamburg, University of Kiel, MIT, the Middle East University Turkey, University of Ulster, the Technical University of Prague and a long standing collaboration with Guangxi University, China. Through our commercial spin-out activities we have close working links with end-users and industrial partners. Examples of international industrial collaborations are BSN Medical, AREVA, and Phillips. At present three FP7 projects are being developed with key EU partners. Some of the leading examples of international collaboration come via our spin-out companies {e.g Hungary, South Africa, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and USA}.

 

Commercialisation

The central Office of Enterprise and Commercial Development is the commercialisation arm of the University.   This dedicated group supports our commercialisation and KT activities and the protection and eventual spin-out of research outcomes. They provide dedicated support for funding, IP protection and business planning. ERG boasts 2 new patents; the licensing of 2 existing patents; and two spin-out companies (Intelligent Orthopaedics Ltd, EESE Ltd). Also the Electronics Design Centre is the vehicle for much of our commercial activity (see impact of research).

 

Staffing Policy

The Faculty strategy for the next five years is to support research & enterprise activities through new appointments. In the near future 2 readers are to be appointed to increase research and enterprise funds by facilitating intra- and inter-collaboration between researchers and supporting new researchers to attract research funding. 

Research training

All research staff undergo induction training and continuing professional development. FRSC organises Faculty based development days, seminars and training events. Staff are given support to attend conferences and colloquia via the research budget. Staff are required to attend training courses on supervising research students and short courses on research methodology, codes of practice, regulations and culture. We formally develop and support staff research activities through annual individual appraisals and mentoring of new research staff. Senior research staff act as mentors for new researchers giving them support to develop their project development, project management, PhD supervision and research output production skills. 

Over the period 2001-2007 three members of this group were awarded personal chairs and two were promoted to Reader. 

Moorcroft is an example of a young researcher who has progressed from postgraduate student, through research fellow to lecturing staff; he is beginning to develop his own research portfolio and this is his first RAE entry.

Research Esteem

During this assessment period ERG has produced: 52 journal papers (in total); given 46 keynote / plenary lectures; formed two company spin-outs; 9 KTPs; 6 awards; and one Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award finalist. In total ERG has successfully attracted and administered c£6.3 million of external income. We have produced a unique Work Based MSc that is recognised by the engineering institutions and by the Engineering Council. We have  been associated with 5 books; been part of 8 licences/patents/IP protection and held 4 company directorships.

Al-Shemmeri has given 4 keynote speeches {Lichfield Festival 2006, NPower 2006, AWM Energy Theme Group 2007, IET 2007}; is chair of the West Midlands ContactKE Environmental Management theme; and a member of the UK HEXAG group. He held a directorship of EESE Ltd (University spin-out); he was invited by Effast Ltd to be co-author of a specialist design book for commercial pipework {Plastic pipeline systems design and installation: 1-904133339}.

Cheshire works closely with The Hothouse, Stoke-on-Trent (a facility he was instrumental in establishing). With them he conducted a virtual reality project whose findings were presented (by invitation) to the European Parliament. Also this collaboration produced a restoration project for Liverpool Museum.  He has worked with the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter developing CAD systems for jewellery designers and with Deskartes (Finland) on their CAD system. 

 

Moocroft was awarded a Medici Fellowship in 2004; acts as a Technical Director of Intelligent Orthopaedics ltd; and is referee for two international journals {medical engineering and physics, clinical biomechanics}. Moorcroft was invited by LEGO to be their expert at the LEGO League held at Portsmouth FC; his work developing labview based software for lego robots has led to a commercial product (Commotion) {mel@commotiongroup.co.uk}.

 

Moorcroft/ Ogrodnik/Thomas have won or been finalist for 6 awards; they won the 2005 Lord Stafford Award for Innovation and were finalist for 2006 Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award. They were shortlisted for the Medical Futures Awards two times in succession. They successfully span-out Intelligent Orthopaedics Ltd, based on the research they have conducted over the past 15 years. They have filed 2 patents in this period (WO/2006/134325, WO/2007/010185).

Ogrodnik has given 5 keynote lectures / plenary addresses {InvoRed Launch 2003;1st Enterprise Fest 2003; SetPoint 2004; Midlands Medici 2004; NSCRF 2005} was invited by the Royal Academy of Engineering to participate in BritDoc 07 (20 of the country’s top engineers were invited to meet potential documentary makers); is a Managing Director of Intelligent Orthopaedics Ltd (University spin-out); led the West Midlands Healthcare Technologies Network that resulted in a £1.75 million project; is member of the AWM Creative industries cluster panel, deputy chair of the AWM Medical Technologies cluster and deputy chair of the ContactKE Healthcare Technologies theme; was a judge for the Sentinel Business Design Award and for BizCom; was seconded to Intelligent Orthopaedics in 2005-06 and continues to support spin-out activity in the University as a mentor; the Royal Academy of Engineering invited him to present a paper in Ingenia (Sept 2007); he has presented keynote lectures on fracture healing research to industrialists on 3 separate occasions. Ogrodnik and Thomas have written two orthopaedic operating procedures now translated into 13 languages. 

Sadat-Shafai was seconded to the Technical University of Hamburg (sponsored by the German Academy of Science DAAD) and was subsequently made a Visiting Professor. He has acted as an international conference committee member {Anglo-German Conference 2005}; has conducted research with Phillips Research Centre and the University of Kiel; and acts as a referee for 9 international journals {e.g., Thin Solid Films, Journal of Materials, Chemistry and Physics, Applied Surface Science and Journal of Molecular Physics}; he is currently developing collaborative work with Plasmionic, Canada on fabrication of transparent electrodes.

Shammas has presented 5 international keynote speeches {ISPS 2002; MIET 2004; WCE 2007; WSEAS 2007; and Microtherm 2007} and has acted as an international conference steering committee member on 3 occasions {European Power Electronics (permanent member); International Symposium Power Semiconductors (2002-present day); and UPEC (2003-present day)}. He is a member of the editorial board of WSEAS transactions on circuits and systems, and is a referee for 5 international journals {e.g., IEE Transactions, Microelectronic Reliability; European Power Electronic Journal; ETRI journal}.

Thomas is a recognised international authority on fracture management and is a practicing orthopaedic surgeon. He has given 36 invited plenary lectures and contributed to 3 orthopaedics procedures books; he is a director of Intelligent Orthopaedics Ltd (University spin-out). Corporations regularly invite him as a “world expert” in fracture management. He is FRCS (Eng) and FRCS (Ed). 

 

Impact of research

 

Spin Outs:

Research conducted by Ogrodnik has led to the spin out of two companies

Intelligent Orthopaedics Ltd (Ogrodnik, Thomas)

EESE Ltd (Al-Shemmeri)

Intelligent orthopaedics is a medical devices company that since formation, in May 2005, has achieved global sales, has obtained EU and FDA clearance to market, obtained ISO 13485 and secured c£400k funding and is now beginning to sponsor further research activity. Two products, the Staffordshire Orthopaedic Reduction Machine (STORM ®) & IOS ®, a unique single use flexible fixator system, are as a result of research conducted by ERG. Both products are available commercially through Intelligent Orthopaedics and are being used on human patients across the globe. STORM was selected to appear on the cover of the recent Royal Academy of Engineering Is Moving (engineering to the centre of society) literature and DVD. EESE was formed from the research base in sustainable / renewable energy; it’s aim was to provide energy management solutions to public and private organisations such as hospitals and health clubs.

 

IP and Licensing

Two new patents are associated with members of this group. Two existing patents have been licensed and are commercialised.

Specific Projects

Electronic Design Centre:

ERG hosts the Midlands’ Electronics Design Centre (sponsored by AWM) whose sole role is to transfer research activity to the wider commercial community. The EDC is one of eight throughout the UK, which deliver a wide variety of service, skills and assistance to local industry with an emphasis on the SME sector, but has also engaged with larger companies over the last 11 years. Originally funded by the DTI (£731,00) and attracted continued support from AWM (£400,000). It is run as a fully-commercial service and staffed and equipped to deliver to industry on this basis. £401,000 has been received in the period 2001-2007.In addition to this the Centre now undertakes fully commercial design work. The EDC has collaborated on numerous industrial projects and has been involved with 6 awards: British Invention Show Awards Winner 2004; European Electronics Industry Award Winners 2003; UK Electronics Industry Design Awards Winners 2002; and Lord Stafford Award Winners 2002 and 2003. 

A project of note is SAVAWATT - a power saving plug for domestic appliances designed and developed in conjunction with this group that is now on sale in every UK high street. Another collaboration with GVR Products (initially funded through Different by Design below) is using ERG’s research expertise (Shammas) to develop a low cost laparoscope.

 

Different by Design:

ERG worked closely with AWM to produce two projects aimed at supporting North Staffordshire industries. Different by Design (£2.75 million) was unique in as much as the funding secured was to help at least 50 companies to develop new products using innovation, research and design. The project completed with a series of 8 national/international exhibitions; 54 new products were developed; and 18 new businesses started. 

 

Sustainable power generation:

ERG has worked with two local companies to develop power generation facilities from alternative sources. One based near Walsall concerned using discarded vehicle tyres as the fuel. The second, based near Eccleshall, is a fully functional plant using sustainable bio-mass as its fuel source. This second project has received significant attention from home and abroad: Talbott Heat and Power is a company based in Stafford and with the research base of this group (in particular Al-Shemmeri) have developed into a company of global standing with expertise in sustainable bio-mass energy systems; the company has co-sponsored a £500,000 continuation project {development@talbotts.co.uk}.

Liverpool Museum:

The Hothouse (Stoke on Trent) has developed into a self-funding unit with which ERG (in particular Cheshire) has worked from the beginning. Currently it provides support for companies such as Wedgwood and Steelite. As mentioned earlier considerable effort is going into virtual reality supporting design activity in the ceramics industry. Research conducted by this group attracted the attention of Liverpool Museum who asked Cheshire to investigate restoring their statues using novel CAD and machining techniques.


Category C Staff

Prof P B M Thomas is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the UHNS and is Visiting Professor in Orthopaedic Engineering at Staffordshire University. He is a named co-author in many papers produced by this group. He has worked closely with this group for 15 years and is an integral staff member of this group. He has co-supervised 1 PhD



[1] University Plan, 2007, Staffordshire University