Senior Applications Engineer, Research and Development, Scott Bader
The MiNMat Engineering Doctorate at the University of Surrey is able to deliver an accessible and attractive route for industry to solve research challenges.
Involvement with such a course was easily justified, considering a dedicated Research Engineer has been jointly selected to work within Scott Bader Co. Ltd to develop our capability in key strategic area of research.
The impact of having a researcher able to directly interact with our internal research and development teams is significant, considering the wider industrial focused experience and exposure the researcher is able to draw upon in completing their portfolio of work. Technical and managerial based taught courses at Surrey are easily incorporated and ensure the researcher is able to bring considerable technical knowledge and capability to the project defined.
The links to a world-leading institution and academic team cannot be overlooked. Significant supervision and consultation with the associated academic team has been provided throughout the project, assisting in the speed and focus of the project.
Combining this support with access to the facilities and equipment within the university means the research group at Scott Bader Co. Ltd has a significant technical advantage in delivering a successful outcome to our research goals.
Professor Trevor Page
Former Pro-Vice Chancellor, Newcastle University
The EngD also offers sponsors the opportunity to build a relationship with very able young engineers and scientists – almost an extended mutual compatibility interview. In one extreme, this has resulted in a sponsor ‘buying out’ their student to ensure that they become their employee before the end of the EngD course.
Contact between Surrey and the sponsoring organisations – whether large companies or SMEs - is more frequent than I have usually experienced over many industrially-sponsored PhDs. Not only does this build very productive links between sponsors and Academia (often allowing other facilities and staff in the university to be engaged with the ever-increasing challenges facing sponsors in 2010), but it also serves to prevent the research engineers losing site of advances in their relevant academic domains.
It also encourages ‘discipline hopping’ and commonality of approaches between the subjects and technologies spanned by the IDC projects overall. Indeed the team spirit and sense of identity and purpose between the research engineers was almost tangible and probably results from the decision to develop common thematic strands between groups of projects without endangering detailed sponsor confidentiality.
Sponsor Testimonial: David Tilbrook Hexcel
David Tilbrook, Research and Development Aerospace, Hexcel
Hexcel have found the Engineering Doctorate at Surrey to be an excellent model for linking industrial research needs with academic research and postgraduate training.
It has provided an effective framework for undertaking research to meet real industrial needs, which would normally be outside the scope of our usual R&D activities.
Our Research Engineer has benefited from the taught courses. She has been able to take information from the technical ones and apply it directly to her research problems. The University has supplied two academic supervisors who have excellent background in composite testing. This has given the Research Engineer the opportunity to work on the cutting edge of materials science while benefiting from excellent academic guidance in composite and polymer characteristics. Successful completion of the project, which is on target, will be of real benefit to Hexcel. It is hoped that this research will underpin advances in fundamental understanding of our materials and enable us to reduce our product development cycle time.
Additionally, we have appreciated involvement with the IDC. We were very much a part of our Research Engineer selection and received excellent support from Surrey in forming a project plan based on Hexcel’s proposal for the research topic.
Hexcel has participated in the EngD Annual Conference and other IDC events. The networking opportunities with other sponsors are a considerable benefit, which we would not have through other funding routes.
In summary, we are highly supportive of the EngD scheme and of the MiNMaT IDC in particular. Hexcel consider the Surrey scheme an example of excellence in postgraduate researcher development.
Sponsor Testimonial: Colin Eddie
Colin Eddie Managing Director Morgan Sindall
Morgan Sindall is one of the leading tunnelling companies in the United Kingdom and we have been responsible for the design and construction of some of the most high profile underground projects of the last twenty years.
In order to maintain a leading position within the tunnelling industry Morgan Sindall recognises the need to innovate and have been responsible for many technological advances in civil tunnelling. These innovations have been borne out of extensive R&D investment into new processes, plant, equipment and also new materials. The goal always being to improve the safety, efficiency and sustainability of the tunnelling process.
In 2009, materials experts from the University of Surrey were requested to undertake a technical review of a Morgan Sindall proposal to utilise High Performance Fibre Reinforced Cementitious Composite (HPFRCC) to line pressurised water tunnels. During the course of this review, the potential of this lining system was recognised and Morgan Sindall and the University of Surrey agreed that continued research and development which utilised an EngD Research Engineer would be a highly attractive route.
Interviews for potential candidates were held in the summer of 2009 and a suitable candidate was quickly identified and work commenced in September 2009. The successful candidate brought with her a fresh perspective to the company with her background and experience. This brought a fresh pair of eyes to the project and we have found this to be useful to challenge existing preconceptions.
The research has now been running for two years and has yielded important data that can be used to support this innovative process in an industrial setting. The EngD Scheme provides the research engineer with an excellent combination of high quality academic contact coupled with real-life industrial experience. The Scheme also provides the industry partner access to high quality laboratories, technicians and leading academics in the field of materials engineering.
In summary I would highly recommend the EngD Scheme and especially the Centre at the University of Surrey to potential Industrial Partners as this provides an excellent (and affordable) route to effective research.
Sponsor Testimonial: Mike Thwaites
Professor Mike Thwaites, CEO Plasma Quest Ltd
Working with the University of Surrey on this EngD programme has brought a large number of benefits to Plasma Quest. The project focussed on the development of a new large area thin film deposition facility, enabling us to upscale our proprietary plasma deposition process for roll-to-roll applications, important for the rapidly growing flexible electronics sector.
The MiNMaT EngD allowed us to employ sophisticated analytical techniques to characterise the elemental composition and microstructure of our deposited thin films, without the costs of purchasing such high-cost equipment, which are beyond the purchasing power of a small company, such as Plasma Quest.
The results of the work have been invaluable in validating and improving the performance of the new large area deposition facility. Hence, this EngD project has:
• helped us enlarge our product range
• improved our marketing material (we can now directly show the thin film quality to our customers)
• assisted in guiding and accelerating new product and process development
• enabled coatings to be deposited which are specifically tailored to (sometimes previously unachievable) customer requirements’
The EngD represents excellent value for money, with the characterisation results from the university providing us with the information required to understand the process-structure property relationship of our nanostructured films. These data also give us a competitive edge, as we are able to demonstrate proof of the unique Plasma Quest process capabilities to our customers. The MiNMaT EngD is an extremely useful scheme for SMEs such as Plasma Quest and EPSRC support for this IDC should undoubtedly be continued.