Great Western Research

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 Great Western Research

A sucessful driving force behind high-level collaborative research in  South West England.

If you want to better meet your business and customers’ needs through focused, bespoke collaboration with a team of world-class academics, GWR aims to provide you with the contacts, advice, support and financial backing to achieve this. The GWR initiative is designed to help your business access the expertise of South West Universities, help you to focus on developing new products or provide support on a project of strategic importance to your business and increase your efficiency and profitability.

Currently Available Funding

In January the Economics and Social Research Council (ESRC) confirmed funding of the new South West Doctoral Training Centre (SWDTC) which brings together the combined strengths of the Universities of Bristol, Exeter and Bath in a consortium to provide doctoral training across the South West of England.

As part of the overall SWDTC strategy, the Management Board has agreed that GWR will work closely with the SWDTC to deliver opportunities for up to 16 new collaborative PhD studentships p.a., starting with the Autumn 2012 student intake.

If YOU have a research question or project in the area of economics or social sciences, and would like a leading academic in the area to work with you this scheme is for you.

In return for a financial contribution of only ca 50% of the project costs ( with the remaining ca 50% funded by the ESRC DTC) , you will get collaboration with a top class academic group, a first class PhD students working on the project, and be directly involved in the research management.

Call Dr Paul Hudson on 01392 269 104 to discuss your research needs .



The original GWR project supported 130PhD studentships working in close collaboration with South West businesses.

Additionally GWR have supported and promoted the establishment of 40 PhD studentships during 2011 in partnership with the Combined Universities in Cornwall, and the European Social Fund      (ESF) . These students are now working on projects in collaboration with South west businesses across a range of disciplines.

The Original GWR project

The original GWR initiative was a 5-year project (2006-2010), £14m investment which aimed to catalyse cutting-edge research collaboration between Higher Education Institutions in the South West and South West businesses in six broad research themes designed to support enterprise in the region: Materials, Applied Mathematics, Sustainability, Psychology, Creative Arts and Information and Communication Technology.

GWR provided matched funding for 130 new PhD-level research studentship programs to be undertaken in South West Higher Education Institutions in partnership with South West Businesses, on projects of high added value to the business partner and the South West regional economy.

A full list of the projects we supported is available via the "funded projects" link in the left hand sidebar above .

The case studies below illustrate just some of these 130 projects which we have agreed to fund to date.

Case Study - Creative Arts Theme: Quality improvement of film media (Granada Television in partnership with Bristol University & Bath University)

Film suffers from quality degradation of various forms; dirt, scratches, sparkle, telecine grading changes, cue dots, film grain, and many other imperfections. However, archived film in the media industry serves an important purpose in terms of "a historical record" as well as an often irreplaceable resource for reproduction purposes. GWR are co-funding a pioneering collaboration between Granada Television and the Universities of Bristol and Bath which aims to develop novel methods to improve the quality of archived (or new) film and video for the media industry. A  PhD student dedicated to this specific project will work with Granada and the Universities to develop algorithms which will  perform quality control checks on films, videos, and digital files, and identify and grade all problems; restore the damage through novel image analysis techniques (providing a new digital output of the original); and provide feedback on the automatic restoration to allow user input and interaction for further quality control. The product will be developed generically so that it can run on various IT platforms and will be jointly owned by the collaborating parties. Post-production companies, film owners and distributors, historical archives and film distributors will benefit from this development, as will the many media related companies that exist in the South West.

Case Study - Materials Theme: Research in to laser transparent ceramics (LISTechnology Ltd & Horizon Ceramics Ltd in partnership with  the University of the West of England & the University of Bristol)

Superplastic Forming allows complex shapes to be produced and Diffusion Bonding joins components without using fasteners, welding or adhesives and with a strength similar to the parent material. These techniques have permitted the manufacture of some remarkable structures from alloys of titanium, aluminium and nickel, primarily for use in aircraft. Until now the production process has used conventional equipment, such as hot platen presses or furnaces, but new research has discovered that by using a combination of lasers and ceramic moulds a particularly fast, cost effective and energy-efficient process is possible which is far superior to methods currently used.

The collaboration between two SME’s and the two Universities will investigate detailed questions relating to the creation of the proposed new manufacturing process, such as whether certain ceramics possess an ability to withstand the rigors of the Superplastic Forming process, and whether those ceramics have the desired optical transparency. If successful, the research will have long-term benefits for the collaborating companies and for the aerospace industry in the South West.

Case Study - Psychology Theme: The impact of diving on cognitive function (the Diving Diseases Research Centre in partnership with the University of Plymouth & the University of Exeter)

The sport of diving is extremely important economically to the South West, and safety is always of paramount importance. However, whenever somebody dives, there is a risk of decompression illness (“the bends”) which impacts on the central nervous system. Indeed, there is a possibility that even ‘small bends’ may accumulate over the years to produce detectable neurological damage in experienced divers.

Collaborative research between the Diving Diseases Research Centre (a charity), supported by a number of local diving equipment suppliers, and the Universities of Plymouth and Exeter will look at the short-term and long-term effects of diving on participants, determining whether divers can reliably assess their functioning whilst at depth. The research will develop cognitive tools specifically targeted at the diving industry (recreational and commercial).

Case Study - Sustainability Theme: Survivability and tuning of the SPERBOYTM Wave Energy Converter (Embley Energy Ltd in partnership with Bath University & the University of Plymouth)

 Secure and renewable energy supplies are of critical importance to the United Kingdom, and generating electricity from the seas that surround the region has clear economic and environmental benefits to the South West. However, developing new, robust technologies that can utilise this source of energy are expensive and experimentation can be costly. A unique collaboration between Embley Energy Ltd., and the Universities of Plymouth and Bath aims to investigate the design of the SPERBOYTM wave energy converter (a floating buoy that extracts wave energy via an oscillating water column) in a rigorous and cost effective way.

The project involves both numerical modelling and experimental work.  The University of Bath will use its expertise in computational fluid dynamics to study the active tuning of the device in a variety of wave climates and the response of the device to extreme wave loading.  Plymouth University will provide access to their ‘wave tank’, and the expertise of their academics, in order to replicate moderate wave conditions to test the device, and also the effect of extreme waves on performance and survivability. Models will be built in the workshops at Plymouth to the specification of the SPERBOYTM designers.

This collaboration will improve Embley Energy’s ability to deploy their sustainable technology with confidence. It will enhance their ability to predict the behaviour of wave energy converters at the earliest stage in the design, thus avoiding unnecessary and costly physical testing and ad hoc design iteration, and will help the company forge links with academics to take full advantage of the considerable body of work in this area.

Case Study - Applied Mathematics Theme: Modelling and stability analysis of lasers coupled to periodic nanostructures (Bookham Technology PLC in partnership with the University of Exeter & Bristol University)

Nanotechnology - linking behaviour on the small scale to behaviour on the large scale - is giving rise to a new industrial revolution and will have an impact on the development of related commercial enterprises in the South-West. However, a key potential bottleneck for future development is a lack of modelling and simulation tools which will reduce the cost of development.

A ground-breaking collaboration between Bookham (a leading global provider of optical components) and the Universities of Exeter and Bristol will investigate and produce mathematical models relevant to high technology nanoscale processes, providing new tools for modelling optical circuits with nanoelements.