The University of Sheffield has overtaken Imperial College London to be the top university in the UK for income and investment in engineering research, according to new data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).
In 2017-18, the University attracted £124 million for engineering research from a range of organisations across the world, throughout the UK and from the Sheffield City Region. This includes funders such as Innovate UK, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, the European Commission and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as well as investment from industrial partners.
The figures further cement the University of Sheffield’s position as a global leader for engineering research and teaching.
Engineering research is delivered by the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and its Faculty of Engineering. This fundamental and translational research addresses real world problems and leads to innovations that benefit a wide-range of people, improving quality of life, creating jobs and stimulating the economy.
University of Sheffield engineering research covers a breadth of sectors, including manufacturing, aerospace, automotive and energy. Investment is helping researchers at the University to develop and harness emerging technologies in artificial intelligence (AI), digitisation and robotics.
Recent investment in engineering research at the University of Sheffield has led to the unveiling of three new multi-million pound research centres, which aim to boost the Sheffield City Region’s reputation as a hub for advanced engineering and industrial technologies.
In the last two years, partnerships between the AMRC and Boeing as well as the AMRC and McLaren Automotive have led to new facilities in the Sheffield City Region.
Boeing has opened its first European manufacturing facility in Sheffield alongside the University’s Factory 2050, which is part of the University’s AMRC. McLaren Automotive opened its £50 million McLaren Composites Technology Centre (MCTC) next to the AMRC, which will build carbon fibre chassis for McLaren’s new models from 2020 – creating around 200 jobs and providing an estimated £100 million of GVA (gross value added) benefit to the local economy by 2028.
Professor Koen Lamberts, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “This is a monumental achievement for Sheffield. Having a university in the North of England leading in engineering research income and investment is a tremendous boost for the Northern Powerhouse as we seek to boost the aerospace, nuclear and manufacturing sectors and rebalance the UK economy.
“I would like to thank all our staff at our Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and Faculty of Engineering for the hard work, innovation and creativity that has made this possible.”
The University of Sheffield’s world class engineering research covers all engineering disciplines. Its researchers work with industry to address industry problems, using the University’s state-of-the-art facilities that are appropriate for industrial-scale research.
The University of Sheffield AMRC and Faculty of Engineering work with partners of all sizes, from global companies to SMEs.
Brian Holliday, Managing Director for Siemens Digital Factory, said: “The University of Sheffield’s investment in advanced manufacturing and Industry 4.0 has huge potential for both the UK and the Sheffield City Region. Investments such as this, complimented by the capabilities of the AMRC, make it easier for a company like Siemens to co-invest in these facilities and to jointly address advanced manufacturing challenges.”
Mark Webber, Managing Director of Tinsley Bridge – a manufacturing and engineering business in Sheffield – which has a longstanding relationship with the AMRC, said: “For an SME in the region it is a huge asset to be able to seek the technical support on offer and the way the AMRC enhances the image of Sheffield to our external international customers. Some of our large multinational customers have been astounded with the facilities at the AMRC only a mile away from our business. We are very proud to be able to say we are associated with the AMRC.”
Mark added: “Working with the AMRC expands our research and development capability and makes a significant contribution to new product innovation. It creates a powerful collaboration by connecting academic knowledge and the specialist facilities of a leading research institution with our internal innovation programmes. This de-risks and reduces time to market of new products targeted to create competitive advantage in global markets.
“The AMRC have a great external focus and are able and willing to help industry engage in cutting edge research and development that would be otherwise impossible for an SME engineering company.
“A world-class facility on our doorstep is a magnet to large multinational manufacturers and a catalyst to create a network of supply chain companies in their wake. The AMRC is attracting leading-edge companies into the city, like Rolls-Royce, Boeing and McLaren, and these companies in turn procure components locally, while demanding world-class standards. So it will improve the capability of the entire supply chain in the area. For us, as an SME and a global, exporting business, having access to the AMRC reassures our customers that we can compete in the modern world.”
Aside from working with industry, Sheffield’s engineering researchers conduct vital fundamental research to discover new products and processes.
Researchers in the Faculty of Engineering are working on major projects such as; developing the next generation of offshore wind turbines that could lead to greener, lower cost electricity generation, developing new technology to monitor how well people walk, developing the next generation of assistive technologies to help people with disabilities and using the University’s world-leading nuclear waste expertise to help in the clean-up of the Fukushima and Chernobyl nuclear power stations.
A recent Centre for Cities report described the AMRC as a ‘jewel in the crown’ and a ‘nationally significant innovation asset.’ The report, Parks and Innovation, found that the AMRC’s research and development, mostly carried out in the Sheffield City Region, has benefited not only the locality but also other parts of country. The report gives examples including the AMRC’s work with Rolls- Royce that de-risked a £100m investment in the North East – securing high value added jobs – and ongoing work with Airbus in North Wales to secure the future of wing production and 6,000 highly skilled jobs in the region.
Investment in engineering research at the University also benefits students. The University of Sheffield has the largest group of UK undergraduate engineers in the Russell Group of universities, almost all of whom go on to graduate-level work or graduate-level further study. Of those who go into work, the majority go into engineering occupations.
Due to the scale and relevance of engineering research at the University, its students are able to not only join in with research groups, but be taught by world-leading engineers and work on problems that no one else has solved – helping them to develop the vital problem-solving skills that are in huge demand by employers across the UK and overseas.