Working with universities, EPSRC invests around £240 million each year in world class training and research – from materials science to information technology.
EPSRC has reorganised its business sector teams to make sure world-class research and training supports the UK’s traditional strengths and stimulates emerging areas.
EPSRC’s sector teams provide a vital link between academia and industry. They act as a communication channel – ensuring tomorrow’s business challenges are reflected in today’s blue skies research. They ensure industry’s voice helps shape EPSRC’s strategy and vision. They broker partnerships – bringing together user organisations with research groups who can add real value and linking research groups with organisations who can bring valuable perspectives.
It is essential the sector teams remain forward looking to reflect trends and issues, allowing the research community time to help address them.
In consultation with industry advisers, new sector groups have been developed and existing ones evolved. The changes reflect emerging and growth areas and recognise new business models and company behaviours.
The new structure also accommodates changing thinking within industry: “A lot of companies don’t associate with any one particular sector. They associate with an identified market gap or opportunity where they can grow. A lot of companies work across different sectors,” Said Dr. Emma Feltham.
One sector area that has been given a greater profile, one not traditionally associated with engineering and the
physical sciences, is the creative industries – including games development and computer-generated imagery.
“It is an area the UK already has real excellence in. We want to understand where engineering and physical sciences research and training can make a real difference,” says Dr Feltham.
Dr Feltham says making sure EPSRC’s sector relationships remain effective is vital to developing research and maximising the potential impact it can have. “For the majority of research to have an impact it needs to be picked up by a user organisation, a company, charity or a government department. So we cannot lose sight of what these user organisations need.”
But she adds the relationship is not about academics providing applied research and development for the private sector. “The problems that industry faces are long-term problems that are really challenging. Industry cannot crack them without academic help. That’s why we need these partnerships.”
Dr Feltham says collaborations can increase investment in academic research – but that is not the primary benefit. “The biggest benefit is the access to industry expertise and equipment.” The changes EPSRC has made to its sector teams will help maintain an effective relationship with the communities that benefit from, and rely on, world-class research, and continue to support the aspirations of all involved.
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