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UOA 25 - General Engineering and Mineral & Mining Engineering

Swansea Metropolitan University

RA5a: Research environment and esteem

 

Introduction   

The Product Engineering research group is based in the Faculty of Applied Design and Engineering. The Faculty is a broad-based grouping made up of seven schools, covering areas as diverse as Digital Media and Automotive Engineering. This diversity, along with the relatively small size of the Faculty, is considered to be a strength, as it enables expertise to be drawn from a wide area, enabling a creative and innovative approach informed by developments across these fields. Specifically, it draws on the expertise of Dr Kelvin Donne, Dean of Faculty, Dr Ian Wells, Head of School of Applied Computing, and Dr Roderick Thomas, School of Logistics and Manufacturing Engineering. This group, covering both applied and basic research, includes areas such as electronics, software development, usability and testing, as well as the more fundamental mathematical modelling work. It also has strong links to the Faculty’s Industrial Design research group and the Non-Destructive Testing Research Centre (see www.sihe.ac.uk/research/index.html). Since the last RAE exercise, emphasis has been placed on increasing the number of staff undertaking research in a predominantly teaching orientated department. One indicator of progress towards this aim is the output of 32 journal and conference papers within the last year from staff in this and related research groups. In addition, a number of staff have become active in the wider research environment through involvement in conference organisation, conference session chairmanship and journal refereeing. This engagement with the wider research community helps to inform the direction of research within the Faculty, as well as ensuring the currency and relevance of the work being carried out. The outputs included in RA2 reflect the more analytical work of the group concerned with computational modelling and signal analysis. The research strategy of the Faculty is based around the need to increase the standard and quantity of research in each of the seven schools that comprise the Faculty.

The developmental strategy adopted is to:

  1. a)invest strategically in human resources to build critical mass;
  2. b)develop and support research capacity e.g. the provision of five faculty research studentships;
  3. c)enhance research infrastructure e.g. the appointment of two research facilitators;
  4. d)secure investment to increase and sustain research student capacity e.g. EPSRC studentship;
  5. e)initiate collaborative and inter-disciplinary research e.g. development of a Technology Transfer Network in non-destructive testing.

This is being achieved by:

  • the careful consideration of the research capability of all prospective new staff
  • the mentoring of existing staff to enable them to become research active
  • the mentoring of existing staff to enable them to become research degree supervisors
  • the reduction in non-research duties for research active staff, using an objective tariff system of workload assessment, where research-led performance indicators are agreed.
  • Institute support for the identification of and applications for research grants through the appointment of a grant support administrator.

Collaborative research has also been identified as a means of increasing the amount and quality of research and enhancing the research environment within the Faculty.

Research Collaborations

  • In 2005 the Welsh Assembly Government invited this Faculty to enter into a formal collaboration with TWI Ltd to establish a Technology Transfer Centre (TTC) in Non Destructive Testing. The Faculty has received £1.2M of capital investment and a further £300,000 to establish a Technology Transfer Network in NDT.  Additional staff have been appointed, including a TTC Project Manager and two post-doctoral research assistants.  An EPSRC CASE PhD studentship in collaboration with Inspection Solutions Ltd, a local NDT company will strengthen further the NDT research activities. Also launched in 2007 is the only UK taught Masters degree in NDT. This is also in partnership with TWI and with other contributing lecturers from a number of UK Universities.  
  • A major industrial partnership has been established with Belron Technical Ltd, the research arm of Belron, which is the world’s largest automotive repair and replacement company. Much of this work is commercially confidential, but some of the work has been released for publication and is included in this submission. Belron is currently sponsoring one post-doctoral research assistant to undertake research work that includes a number of pan-European partners.  The industrial contact is Belron’s Innovation Manager, Dr Christopher Davies (chrisd@belron.com).  Income from Belron over the eligible period exceeds £230,000.

Research Support and Structure

Recently the Institute has appointed research facilitators within each Faculty to encourage the growth of a research culture. They have particular responsibilities to ensure that there are effective research methodology and induction programmes in place for all new research students. In addition, they organise regular research seminars within the Faculty and across the Institute to facilitate the communication of current research to a wider audience. The facilitators also provide a quality monitoring function through the Faculty and Institute Research and Postgraduate Committees, ensuring the dissemination of good practice.  
In addition to external income, the Faculty also provides five research studentships which have been ongoing since 2003. In addition to the research induction and training provided by Swansea Institute, an arrangement with Swansea University exists for all students to attend their research student training programmes. This Faculty’s staff also take advantage of the Research Supervisors training programme provided by Swansea University.
During the eligible period, seven research students have graduated from this group, six PhDs and one MPhil. Over the past two years, five research students have graduated within the Faculty. In addition, it is expected that another three PhD students and two MPhil students will graduate over the next 12 months. These figures are presented as evidence of the success of the Faculty funded studentships in generating a much more active research environment. The seven eligible students for this unit of assessment have been in the areas of numerical analysis, image processing, product development and usability analysis. The creation of three post-doctoral research assistant positions within the Faculty, two of which are within this assessment group, is further evidence of the Faculty’s commitment to enhancing its research profile.

The Faculty’s research seminars facilitate cross-school research. One example of this is the successful completion of a PhD programme between the Welsh School of Architectural Glass and the School of Industrial Design, which considered the novel use of rapid prototyping in the creation of glass artefacts. A further example is a current PhD project investigating the use of recycled fused glass in architecture, where the NDT equipment purchased for the TTC is being used to characterise the material properties as part of this science-art hybrid project.  The School of Built and Natural Environment within the Faculty has a research programme in sustainability in buildings, which the recycled glass project is also benefiting from.

The Belron sponsored automotive glass research is diffusing across other schools in the Faculty, particularly the Welsh School of Architectural Glass (submitted under the Art & Design UOA) and the School of Industrial Design, which has benefited from  SRIF investment towards additional advanced Rapid Prototyping equipment.

A major research project over the last five years has been the development of a fully three dimensional transient boundary element code. The work has resulted in a successful PhD completion and papers presented at NAFEMS (winning best paper award)  and the 6th UK Boundary Integral Conference at Durham have been particularly well received.  We note the support and encouragement of Professor Luiz Wrobel (Brunel) and Dr. Jon Trevelyan (Durham). This work has also helped to create a new research initiative in the School of Applied Computing in applying Grid Cluster technology to a parallelised version of the BEM code developed by this research group.  

The Faculty operates a scheme with local patent attorneys, where all final year project students can block file their concepts. This has been particularly useful in the School of Industrial Design, where this well-developed IPR policy has seen the Institute investing in subsequent patent registration fees for a subset of these filed concepts considered worthy of continued protection and development.   

The previous RAE period included the Faculty’s Automotive Research Centre (ARC). Some of the ERDF funding for this project comes under this RAE eligible period and it is interesting to note that the ARC work has evolved into a commercially sustainable cost centre with full-time staff dedicated to the strong industrial interface built up by the ARC work.  

Esteem Indicators

A necessary pre-requisite to achieve a vibrant and successful research environment, is the need for staff to engage with the wider research community. Initially, staff were encouraged to present at conferences, and as staff became recognised in particular fields, this activity developed so that they became involved in the organisation of events. In addition to the staff included in this unit of assessment, a number of others, both within this wider research group and other groups within the Faculty, are participating in such activities as organising conferences, chairing sessions, presenting keynote addresses, refereeing journals etc. The specific activities of the staff included for the assessment are given below.

Dr KE Donne
  • Elected Fellow of the Institute of Engineering and Technology
  • Invited Session Chair, 2nd World Congress on Engineering Asset Management and 4th International Conference on Condition Monitoring (organised by BINDT) Harrogate 2007
  • Invited Session Chair, 4th , 5th and 6th International Conference on Quality, Reliability & Maintenance, St Edmunds Hall, Oxford 2002-2007
  • Invited keynote speaker, 2nd World Congress on Engineering Asset Management and the 4th International Conference on Condition Monitoring (organised by BINDT) Harrogate 2007
  • Presented with the Best Paper Award at NAFEMS 2007, World Congress, Vancouver
  • Consultant to Belron Technical Ltd, the research arm of Belron (the world’s largest automotive glass repair and replacement company). The nature of the consultancy is basic and applied research into glass fracture, and is commercially confidential. Research income from this source totals £259,051 over the eligible period.
  • Invited to be Co-Editor for 7th International Conference (2009) on Quality, Reliability & Maintenance, St Edmund’s Hall, University of Oxford
  • Referee for the Institute of Physics journals, including: J. Phys. D
  • Referee for International Journal for Quality and Reliability Engineering (Wiley)
  • Member of Editorial Board Scientific Committee, International Journal of Engineering Simulation

  • Member of the Expert Group for the Wales Spatial Plan, Waterfront and Western Valleys Knowledge Economy Project
  • Long standing member of the Welsh Automotive Forum Technology Advisory group
  • Project Director of Technology Transfer Centre (TTC) in Non-Destructive Testing. This TTC has generated over £997,641 in capital investment over the eligible period, and is an initiative in close partnership with TWI Ltd. In total, this research grant currently stands at £1.2 million.
  • Project Director of Technology Transfer Network(TTN) in Non-Destructive Testing. The TTN has generated over £123,379 for establishing academic/industrial network. In total, this research grant currently stands at £227,500
Dr I Wells
  • Elected Fellow of the Institute of Engineering and Technology
  • Elected Senior Member of IEEE
  • Member of the Technical Programme Committee (Signal Processing in Communication) for the IEEE International Conference on Communication, from 2004 – 2008
  • Seconded 2002 – 2005 as the Research Director of Digital Technium at Swansea University. This is a multi-million pound research centre and incubation unit.

Dr RA Thomas

  • Elected Fellow of the Institute of Engineering and Technology
  • Chair of the West South Wales branch of the IET
  • Member of the OFWAT Committee representing Wales, advising on policy and research issues, 2001-2004
  • Conference Chair and Organiser for the International Conference on Quality, Reliability and Maintenance hosted at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. This biennial conference will hold its 7th event in 2009
  • International Consultant to Snell Infrared International, USA
  • Programme Committee Member, Thermosense XXV (SPIE)
This group has been successful in gaining research income during the eligible period, particularly in the later years, achieving a total of  £1,704,382, which is equates to £774,719 per submitted full-time equivalent member of staff. This has enabled the group to support the establishment of post-doctoral assistant positions, and to purchase equipment, both of which should enable their research efforts and those of the wider Faculty to grow significantly.