Five new research collaborations between industry and academia have been awarded a share of £100,000 to fund innovative new projects across science, engineering and health.

Thomas Westcott is delivering the R&D Solutions Fund in partnership with the University of Plymouth. It is designed to stimulate industrial collaborations and knowledge transfer opportunities between researchers and businesses, aiming to solve specific business problems. It will also act as a catalyst for businesses to gain even greater access to the University of Plymouth’s facilities such as the COAST Lab, the Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre and the Digital Fabrication Laboratory.

From tackling sediment erosion to investigating the antimicrobial properties of ‘essential oils’ and the development of a low cost robotic arm for fruit and veg harvesting, each new project brings together academics at the University of Plymouth with a business partner.

Among the five to be successful is a collaboration between international civil engineering and environmental hydraulics agency, HR Wallingford Ltd, and Dr Robert Schindler of the University of Plymouth. Together they will be conducting research into whether biopolymers – a natural biological glue – might be an effective tool to prevent sediment erosion around structures in the marine environment.

The other four projects to receive the R&D Solutions Fund are:

  • Dr Arunangsu Chatterjee and Dr Rebecca Baines, who will be working with The Joy App on ‘The impact of social prescribing in a digital era: a feasibility study using Normalisation Process Theory.’
  • Dr Maozhou Meng and Composite Innovations Ltd, who will work on the development of a high-performance composite marine propeller
  • Dr Ian S Howard and Fieldwork Robotics, who will produce a low cost compliant robotic arm for fruit and vegetable harvesting
  • The Plant Factory (Prof Mick Fuller, Dr Lynn McCallum and Dr Phil Warburton), who will work with Cornish Essential Oils to examine the antimicrobial properties of their products. 

Partner Adam Croney said: “It is fantastic to see the high level of interest in the fund and I’d like to congratulate the successful applicants. These collaborations are extremely exciting and could deliver innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges we face. Crucially, they will all make a difference to businesses at a pivotal time.”

The R&D Solutions Fund was established by the University to support the business community during the pandemic. Adrian Dawson, Director of Research & Innovation at the University, said: “The response over the first two rounds of funding has been exceptional – we’ve received a wealth of innovative applications from across different disciplines and industrial sectors, and that shows the sheer appetite for research and development. Bringing together businesses with world-class research and facilities is one of the ways we can help underpin a high-growth, high-skilled economy.”