Innovative science and cultural hub funded01 Jun 2010, PR 122/10 The first UK research centre bringing together materials science and materials culture research in the same institution will be built at King’s College London. An important interface between the material sciences and the creative industries, it will become a unique creative force in the country.
The ‘Materials Innovation Hub’ cross-disciplinary project has been awarded £460,000 from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) under their ‘Bridging the Gap’ funding programme. The proposal ‘Materials Innovation Hub: Connecting Materials Culture to Materials Science’ – ranked number one by the research council panel – is led by Dr Mark Miodownik, Head of the Materials Research Group at King’s and an EPSRC Senior Media Fellow.
‘The Materials Innovation Hub will be a place of wonder, play and ambitious ideas – a place to initiate innovation and culture change within the university and the UK,’
explains Dr Miodownik.
The guiding principal will be that all materials innovation benefits from a system-wide multidisciplinary approach involving the arts, humanities, social sciences, physical sciences and health sciences. At present there is almost no relationship between materials scientists and creative industry professionals in the UK.
‘This has a serious detrimental effect on the research and teaching culture of universities and their capacity to engage with the wider world, since many of the important issues of contemporary society, such as health, security, climate change and economic sustainability, require a multi-disciplinary approach,’
continues Dr Miodownik.
‘A defining characteristic of society’
A perfect example of materials innovation was the development of the silicon chip 50 years ago. It was a materials science innovation that sparked the information technology revolution. Such new materials do more than transform technology; they change behaviour and shape the urban landscape from cities, to hospitals to home, and art. ‘Thus,’
says Dr Miodownik, ‘materials are a defining characteristic of society: its history, culture and economic welfare.’
King’s is extraordinarily well placed to develop this hub because of the multidisciplinarity that already exists within the College. This is also reflected in the academic breadth of the team Dr Miodownik will lead. It includes: Professor Sue Grimmond (Geography), Professor Alan Read (English), Sheila Anderson (ISS) and Professor Jayne Lawrence (Pharmacy).
‘This exciting initiative will contribute to the key Bridging the Gaps objective of enabling institutional culture change across traditional disciplines. It will help to build engagement between engineering and physical sciences, social sciences and arts and humanities, which is a high priority for the programme,’
said Kedar Pandya, Head of the Cross-disciplinary Interfaces programme, EPSRC.
Materials innovation already has a successful track record at King’s. For example, a novel wound healing bandage was developed within the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing & Midwifery; and OSspray, a King’s spin-out company, is a leading innovator in commercial biomaterials for the dental industry.
Dr Miodownik’s work was highlighted in a successful bid to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) that secured £7.5 million of funding towards the development of the East Wing of Somerset House at King’s, because of its ability to showcase research and teaching excellence to the public and successfully engage with business and industry. The work undertaken as a result of the EPSRC grant will play an important role in creating a landmark precinct, embodying and enabling the coming together of the arts, the public and higher education at Somerset House.
King’s, in partnership with the Somerset House Trust, through the East Wing development, hopes to develop a new cultural hub for Londoners, creating opportunities for innovative collaboration in teaching, research, events and training. Additionally, King’s will also be showcasing its own innovative, existing work with the cultural and creative industries. The East Wing will also be home for other key departments, such as the College’s prestigious School of Law.
Dr Dorian Hayes, Business Development Manager (Cultural and Creative Industries), King’s College London Business Ltd, comments: ‘Having been involved in the drafting of this exciting bid, I am delighted that the Materials Innovation Hub has been given such a strong endorsement by the EPSRC.
‘The project represents an inspiring opportunity for academics to make new connections across disciplinary boundaries within the College, as well as to explore the potential for innovative partnership, collaboration, and knowledge exchange with external organisations and commercial partners, particularly in the cultural and creative industries, but also in the government, materials industry, and museums and heritage sectors.’
Future plans for the Materials Innovation Hub include a ‘Festival of Materials’ which will comprise a series of workshops, events, exhibitions, dialogues and entertainment on the theme of materiality to invigorate the research community to discover surprising synergies and to develop a language of communication both between disciplines and with the public.
[Picture copyright Charlie Bibby/FT Magazine]Notes to editorsKing’s College London
King’s College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher Education
2009) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King’s has nearly 23,000 students (of whom more than 8,600 are graduate students) from nearly 140 countries, and some 5,500 employees. King’s is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.
King’s has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise for British universities, 23 departments were ranked in the top quartile of British universities; over half of our academic staff work in departments that are in the top 10 per cent in the UK in their field and can thus be classed as world leading. The College is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of nearly £450 million.
King’s has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe; no university has more Medical Research Council Centres.
King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts are part of King’s Health Partners. King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering global collaboration between one of the world’s leading research-led universities and three of London's most successful NHS Foundation Trusts, including leading teaching hospitals and comprehensive mental health services. For more information, visit: www.kingshealthpartners.org
Dr Mark Miodownik
Dr Mark Miodownik is Head of the Materials Research Group in the Engineering Division at King’s College London where his main research area is self-organising materials on which he has published one book and more than 50 research papers. He specialises in collaborations with designers, architects and artists through his work developing the Materials Library (www.materialslibrary.org.uk). Mark is a broadcaster and writer on science and engineering issues and is an EPSRC Senior Media Fellow.
The Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council is the main UK government agency for funding research and training in engineering and the physical sciences, investing more than £850 million a year. http://www.epsrc.ac.ukFurther information
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