Mechanical Engineering Research Strategy

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Context

The Department of Mechanical Engineering consists of some 31 FTE academics, 31 researchers mainly at the postdoctoral level and 142 PhD students, working across three major research groups – the Biomechanical Research Group, the Energy & Environment Research Group and the Marine Research Group.  We have research income in excess of £10M per annum and we were highly rated in the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) when we were submitted under two Units of Assessment.  Our work extends from basic science such as new materials development and disease assessment models for dementia all the way to applied, such as the design of replacement heart valves, the modelling of wave interactions in extreme offshore environments, the design of trimaran ships, and the optimization of the combustion properties of the new biofuel types in engines.  Our research is recognized as pioneering across the world and we are proud of our global reputation for excellence in our output.

 

Vision

Our vision is to play a major part in resolving global challenges including helping the world to achieve sustainability, developing alternative sources of energy, designing new vehicles and their propulsion systems for a low carbon world, and developing new materials and processes, for healthcare and beyond.  We will ensure we maintain our position as a world leading department for basic and applied research into mechanical engineering and to achieve this we will continue to work closely with Research Councils, Governmental Organisations and Industry across the world.

 

Priorities

The mission statement of our Department, “To generate new knowledge and to communicate and translate this knowledge to our students and to society” places the generation of new knowledge through research at the very front of out pursuits. At the same time, the translation of the fruits of our research for the benefit of society is equally one of the three pillars of our mission statement. To achieve this, we have identified a series of priorities:

  • The Department of Mechanical Engineering will foster an environment in which research activities are valued and embedded in a positive and supportive atmosphere, to enhance our research reputation and the career development of its staff.
  • We will align our research with international, national, RCUK, UCL and Faculty strategies but we will ensure that curiosity research is also fully supported.
  • We intent to nurture young researchers and academics so they are able to undertake research at fundamental and applied levels and be in a position to make world leading contributions.
  • We will strive to encourage greater interdisciplinary research within UCL and the UK University sector and also across the world.
  • We will provide our research groups with the resources they need to ensure growth and success including laboratories and equipment that are fit for purpose.
  • We will pursue to increase the amount of grant income obtained particularly through large scale, collaborative grants and the development of Doctoral Training Centres.
  • We shall strive to expand and strengthen our industrial collaborations, with the aim that 50% of our research income comes from sponsored industrial research.
  • We will continue to invest and develop our infrastructure: laboratories, workshops and office space for our researchers need to be taken to a level that is commensurate with a world leading research.

 

Research Groups

Biomechanical Research Group:

Our primary aim for the next five years is to develop the core laboratory facilities that underpin our research and teaching.  Specifically we would like to develop a state-of-the-art mechanical characterization lab, a fluids characterization lab, a wet lab for cell and chemical work, and a robotics/electronics lab.  These labs along with a significant computer simulation capability are envisioned as shared core facilities for the whole group and run by dedicated trained technicians. They will allow out research fellows, post-docs, PhD students, and 3rd & 4th & MSc project students to carry out research projects.  They will be funded in part through contribution from research grants, Departmental investment and funding from teaching.  With these facilities in place and with suitable office space for our research staff – still missing at the time of preparation of this document – we will be able to attract and retain the best PhD students and research associates, and establish ourselves as internationally world leading in biomechanical research and teaching.

Our secondary aim is to contribute to the cross-disciplinary UCL Institute Healthcare Engineering translational research programme.  Specifically, our research already aligns with (and has contributed in the formulation of – to a certain extent) the flagship IHI programmes – participating in many, and indeed leading some of them.  We will do this in a manner that does not dilute the primacy of the Mechanical Engineering Department as the locus of our research and teaching activities.

Energy and Environment Research Group:

The Energy and the Environment group is involved in a broad range of research activities that address important global challenges.  The aim of our research strategy is to provide strong support in strengthening this world leading research and in realising its maximum potential. The objective here is to provide the focus in support of the group’s strategy and enable development of a unified approach.

For the next five years and beyond the group will seek to focus on 1) Infrastructure 2) People and 3) Impact. The research and teaching facilities will be developed/modified to provide excellent student learning/research experiences. The state-of-the-art experimental and computing infrastructure that will be developed will underpin our core research in energy technologies, industrial /environmental flows, advanced manufacturing and future fuels.  The group will seek to capitalise synergies in research methodologies thereby enabling development of key combined focus areas to address specific engineering challenges.   During this period, new recruitments (academic and technical staff) will strengthen the capabilities and enable effective utilisation of research facilities. Central to the strategy will be career development of early and mid-career researchers within the group.  The group will seek to further enhance impact via engagement in public policy making, outreach and industrial collaboration. Central to the activities and ambition of the Energy and Environment Research Group is the development of the new Advanced Propulsion Laboratory (APL) at the QEOP campus, where a significant expansion of activities is envisaged.

Marine Research Group:

The strategic focus of the Marine Research Group is based on the challenges arising from:

  • Increased use of the maritime space (blue economy growth, seaborne and coastal trade, offshore energy and resources).
  • The need to enforce international law and security through naval forces.
  • Opportunities provided through new technologies (autonomous marine systems and the smart and connected ship).
  • Exploiting extreme and harsh ocean environments, including the Polar Regions.
  • Reducing emissions and improving energy efficiency management for shipping.

The MRG will build on its pre-eminent position in advanced ship and submarine design research and develop strength in key research areas such as autonomous marine systems, marine electrical engineering and harsh ocean environments.  Strong industry collaborations will continue to be a focus, nurturing our links with the Ministry of Defence, BMT, Rolls Royce and QinetiQ and building new relationships with key partners.  The MRG also aims to build stronger collaborative relationships with other groups in UCL, for example CEGE, Bartlett, Energy Institute and the Institute for Material Discovery.

Finally, we must note that the existing Research Groups structure in the Department is by no means frozen; indeed as research priorities and new areas evolve and develop, these research groups similarly evolve.  For example, given the strong developments that have taken place of the fronts of materials and micro & nanotechnologies, are currently exploring the possibility of launching a Materials and Manufacturing group, that can bring colleagues pursuing these activities closer together.

 

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