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Funding organisation looks for research with impact

The British Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has a strong track record of research-based success stories.

A high-quality programme is scheduled for the Aalto University Academic Summit, held between 16 and 20 November 2014. The theme of the summit is 'The Impact of Universities on Economic Growth'. Speakers at the event include Nobel Prize-winner Edmond H. Fischer (Medicine and Physiology, 1992), this year's recipient of the Millennium Technology Prize, Stuart Parkin, and the winner of this year's Marcus Wallenberg Prize, Magnus Berggren.

One of the speakers at the event is Lesley Thompson, director of the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The government research council invests more than £800 million a year in research on technical sciences.

EPSRC has a strong track record of creating success stories. For example, Intelligent Energy, one of the world's largest fuel cell companies, originates from EPSRC-supported research at Loughborough University.

Impact assessed already in the research plan

EPSRC emphasises the societal impact of research already when selecting projects for funding.

'We ask researchers to think about how their plan fits in the bigger picture: what else is going on in the field, how the planned research will contribute to the field and how it will help to solve current or future challenges. We also ask researchers how they will ensure that the results of their research will have an academic, societal or economic impact,' Thompson says.

EPSRC works closely with academic institutions, public bodies and businesses.

'We encourage collaboration between the business community and the public sector, particularly when it can contribute to the advancement of research and the exploitation of results.'

Current trends: quantum research, big data and materials research

EPSRC provides various types of funding. It supports different projects with financing that ranges from individual travel grants to millions of pounds for research programmes that may last even up to six years.

Occasionally, the council invites research proposal from a certain field.

'We determine the themes we fund either by consulting research communities and the industry or by organising special reviews only engaging certain relevant parties,' Thompson explains.

Currently, interesting research topics include quantum technologies, big data and materials research.

EPSRC systematically collects data on the impacts of all projects it has funded. Researchers are asked to report, for instance, any articles they have published or companies that have been formed as a result of research. The data is available on the EPSRC website and the Gateway to Research website, which is a joint portal for all fields of research.

Further information:

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (www.epsrc.ac.uk)

Academic Summit programme and registration: wcc.aalto.fi

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