Final report for EPSRC Unspent Grant Balances 2012 (associated with EPSRC Institutional Sponsorship 2012)

Research output: Other contribution

Abstract / Description of output

EPSRC Unspent Grant Balances 2012/13
University of Edinburgh Final Report, June 2013
PI: Professor Bob Fisher

Report produced by: Professor Bob Fisher, College Dean of Research ( and Dr Lynn Forsyth, College Research Officer (

The University of Edinburgh was allocated an Unspent Grant Balances award of £243,537. An open competition for applications for funding was announced on the 18 April 2012 with a deadline of the 11 May 2012. The award was held in the College of Science and Engineering, and applicants were advised that the School’s Business Development Executives (embedded within each School of the College with the remit for knowledge exchange) should be involved in developing the proposals. Projects were invited regarding their ability to (i) address EPSRC’s priority areas (Living with Environmental Change, Healthcare Technologies, Global Uncertainties, Digital Economy, Manufacturing the Future, and Energy), (ii) enhance collaboration between other universities and between the Schools and Colleges of the University, and (iii) create ‘impact’ in preparation for the upcoming REF2014 exercise. Applicants were also advised that activities would be constrained to (i) bridging funding to retain key staff on EPSRC projects, (ii) follow-on studies to determine commercial viability of EPSRC-funded work, (iii) collaborative meetings for future multi-disciplinary, international or industry collaborations, and (iv) pilot projects to determine feasibility of future EPSRC applications.

The selection panel comprised Professor Lesley Yellowlees (Head of College), Professor Bob Fisher (College Dean of Research), and Dr Wendy Nicholson (Head of Business Development, Edinburgh Research and Innovation). 43 applications were received and 13 proposals were selected for award by the selection panel. Proposals were assessed based on their fit to the call criteria, the quality of their plan and the ‘value’ of their impacts. The majority of the allocation decisions were made on the 25 May 2012.

The following projects were selected for award and their outputs were as follows:

1. Comparing Modelling Techniques for Protein Trafficking in the Cell (Professor Jane Hillston, School of Informatics) - the award was used to fund Dr Vashti Galpin's salary as a Research Assistant, to support her attendance at CMSB 2012 in London, and to cover costs associated with an invited visit to SYBILA (Systems Biology Laboratory) in the Faculty of Informatics at Masaryk University in Brno. This enabled her to prepare and submit to a highly regarded journal, Information and Computation. This paper describes how Bio-PEPA models can be expressed as stochastic hybrid models, which fits with the stated goal of comparing modelling techniques. This paper is currently under review. Additionally, she was able to present the work on modelling protein trafficking at an international conference and to researchers at Masaryk University, thereby illustrating the use of the process algebra Bio-PEPA for biological modelling to new audiences. As a result of the visit to Masaryk, collaboration has been established with the SYBILA group, integrating Bio-PEPA as a modelling language with their model checking approach, and investigating the use of quantitative equivalences to achieve state space reduction. A post-doctoral researcher from the group will visit Edinburgh in 2014 for four - six months to work on this collaboration.

2. High Resolution Characterization of Materials for Clean Renewable Energy and Precision Manufacturing of Micro-reactor Vessels for Synthesis (Dr George Serghiou, School of Engineering) - this award contributed to advanced microreactor manufacture, high pressure-temperature synthesis, characterization of improved and new materials for clean energy, strengthening interschool cooperation and with leading French and German laboratories. We designed and manufactured new microreactors in the School of Engineering and the School of GeoSciences and extreme-condition tested them coupled with X-ray diffraction in Germany. We drastically reduced failures by 90% at the devices extreme operational limits. Two Hamburg-Synchrotron publications, a Masters report, student training here and in Germany, and an enriched outlook on UK materials-vendors developed. Using frontline electron diffraction in France on our synthesized materials, we developed know-how for tailor-making bulk and nano-alloys important for photovoltaics and identified further exotic structures. We also attended a habilitation and provided proposal/manuscript support to our colleagues there. Through a German workshop we contributed to new methodologies for perturbing and evaluating materials at extremes. Particularly constructive was the meeting and discussion with the X-ray-Free-Electron-Laser Facility scientific director in Hamburg. We seek to build on our foremost laboratory collaborations and expand our new material-landscapes (bulk nano-alloys and nitrides for photovoltaics, thermoelectrics), methodologies (coupling high pressure-temperature methods with frontline structural-chemical- morphological-optoelectronic characterization), and tailored reactor manufacture (transfer of our newly established capabilities to other devices linked with advanced characterization sources).

3. Development of Unprecedented ‘Umpolung’ of Imines through Carbon (0) Catalysis (Dr Uwe Schneider, School of Chemistry) - the budget was used to prepare ten potential carbon (0) catalysts, which differed regarding the ‘ligands’ attached to the central carbon atom. These compounds were evaluated ¬- in the presence of boron-based Lewis acids - with 11B NMR analysis in order to assess their Lewis basicity; interesting (unexpected) data were obtained. Thus, several of these carbon (0) compounds are being exploited in carbon dioxide fixation and as ligands in gallium (III) catalysis. We also examined these potential catalysts in ‘Umpolung’ model reactions employing imine pro-nucleophiles; so far, we have not achieved a breakthrough. We were able to gather a lot of expertise in this innovative and challenging field. Importantly, we found a ‘hook’ to both organocatalysis and metal catalysis (gallium). The keys are in both cases the carbon (0) compounds, which will have a strong impact on organic chemistry, as we will introduce new powerful catalysts. All (sub) projects are on-going. Based on the obtained data, we intend to submit both a Leverhulme Research Project Grant (£250K) and an EPSRC First Grant (£125K) in June 2013.
4. Establishing the Foundations of Web Architecture (Professor Henry Thompson, School of Informatics) - the funding supported three visits to North America, for a total of six weeks at MIT and eight days in Toronto, working on, respectively, a grant proposal to AHRC/NSF and a workshop on Web-enabling Real References. A draft Letter of Intent for the grant was reviewed by AHRC and judged to be appropriate for the joint AHRC/NSF scheme. Agreement reached on who will do what in the grant at MIT and Edinburgh, and a first draft of the proposal written. Planning is well underway for a workshop in Toronto this summer. Extended face-to-face work was absolutely necessary in both cases to get our ideas from just barely there at all to-well fleshed-out. Without this funding for travel and subsistence, neither project would have gone ahead. The joint proposal will go to AHRC and NSF in June 2013. A workshop will be held in Toronto at the end of the summer.

5. Saving Energy through Visible Light Communication (VLC) (Professor Harald Haas, School of Engineering) - the funds were used to bridge-fund a postdoctoral Research Fellow in Professor Haas’s group (Dr Sinan Sinanovic, between the 1 September 2012 and the 31 December 2012). Dr Sinanovic provided substantial technical input to the modelling and analysis of novel research contributions. In addition, he made significant contributions to the rebuttal of review comments received for two IEEE journal publications he was involved in. The objectives have fully been achieved. Dr Sinanovic has significantly contributed to two IEEE transaction papers which have now been accepted for publication. Abdelhamid Younis, Sinan Sinanovic, Marco Di Renzo, Raed Mesleh, and Harald Haas, “Generalised Sphere Decoding for Spatial Modulation” IEEE Transactions on Communications (accepted); Harald Burchardt, Sinan Sinanovic, Zubin Bharucha and Harald Haas, "Distributed and Autonomous Resource and Power Allocation for Wireless Networks," IEEE Transactions on Communications (accepted). Additionally, he was co-inventor of a patent proposal (M&C Ref: PG444259GB) on a new Li-Fi technology. These contributions support the School’s REF activities. The results of the funded activities clearly provided excellent input to the awarded EPSRC Established Career Fellowship (“Tackling the Looming Spectrum Crisis in Wireless Communication”) (EP/K008757/1), which commenced from the 1 March 2013.

6. Carbon Storage in Concrete (Dr Jian-Fei Chen, School of Engineering) - the award was used to investigate the effect of pyrolysis conditions and biomass feedstock on physical properties of biochar related to its use in concrete. The main objective of the project was to assess suitability of biochar as a component in concrete to create a lightweight concrete capable of storing carbon. Two series of biochar were prepared from feeds differing only in moisture content and the team studied how this affects water absorption dynamics and other functional properties of biochar. As part of this work and specifically for the purpose of this project, the team developed a new method for measurement of water absorption dynamics in biochar, as an important parameter for its use in concrete, and by measuring this property for a number of biochars the team identified trends related to feedstock and production conditions. The team made four batches of concrete with different mixes, tested the properties of fresh and hardened concrete, and established the basic relationships between biochar characteristics and concrete properties. The team has achieved specific concrete mix designs which are suitable for use as non-structural members. Within this project the team has identified relationships between biomass feedstock, production (pyrolysis) conditions, biochar properties, and its use in lightweight concrete. This forms a basis for further development of this concept and specific products. The results are encouraging and as a next step the team are preparing a full proposal to EPSRC, and are also investigating the possibility of patenting.

7. Computer-Based Modelling for Safe Intra-Hospital Patient Transfers (Dr Jacques Fleuriot, School of Informatics - the funding was used for research on the modelling of intra-hospital transfers of patients at St Mary’s Hospital. It allowed us to carry two contextual inquiries that involved interviews, shadowing of hospital staff, and the demonstration of a tablet-based prototype. A journal paper, submitted to a special issue of Behaviour and Information Technology, has just been accepted for publication (after very positive reviews). A significant number of medical records were examined, which showed that clinicians were not properly recording transfer procedures. Our St Mary’s collaborators worked with us to produce a detailed, pen-and-paper specification for tracheotomy-related transfers, an exercise they had never done before. We now have a well-defined, provably correct, model for intra-hospital patients’ transfers during tracheotomy at St Mary’s. This has enabled the clinicians to develop an insight into the causes of problems, such as delays, that have been inherent to their existing, but hitherto inexplicit, practice. The model is being used as the basis to generate structured pen-and-paper checklists that we plan to evaluate next. Our collaboration with the medics is on-going. We are currently working on a paper detailing the tracheotomy project and a collaborative grant proposal to extend the work and aim for a real-world system.

8. Hydrogen Loading of Paris-Edinburgh Cells (Dr John Loveday, School of Physics and Astronomy) - large volume pressure cells offer significant advantages over the more commonly used diamond anvil cells, in that they allow macroscopic quantities (> 1mm3) of sample to be studied and produced. These advantages are of particular value for chemical synthesis and also for neutron diffraction. Large volume cells are however very difficult to load with liquids and gases. In collaboration with Dr S.Klotz (University P et M Curie, Paris) we have developed a high pressure gas loading technique which enables our own press (the Paris-Edinburgh press) to be loaded with hydrogen at 2,000 bar. This award provided the funds to commission the apparatus, and to develop its use for neutron diffraction studies. The award principally funded Dr Craig Bull’s salary for six months (Oct 2012- March 2013). Dr Bull was responsible for the testing of the apparatus and for making modifications to the apparatus to ensure efficient operation. Hydrogen makes many metals brittle and as a result of experience several components had to be hydrogen-proofed. He was also responsible for developing a safe operating procedure to work with a very high pressure inflammable gas and for preparing the safety documentation that satisfy the rigorous safety procedures of Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. This work was successful and as a result we have now loaded deuterium into the Paris-Edinburgh cell and have successfully collected diffraction data from it. Diffraction studies of mixtures of hydrogen with hydro-quinone and with urea, which are both potential hydrogen storage systems, are scheduled for July 2013. Dr Bull has now been appointed as an instrument scientist on the high-pressure beamline at the ISIS neutron source and so access to his expertise has been secured for the long-term future.

9. Exploiting Social Networks for Community Annotation of Scientific Data (Professor Douglas Armstrong, School of Informatics) - the funding was used for a six-month proof-of-concept study which examined the feasibility of using DBWiki for annotation of image-based data. DBWiki was deployed on our imaging server, integrated with a customised version of the site. We developed a DBWiki-compliant version of VFB's ontology that would allow collaborative editing and maintenance of the VFB anatomy. The required suite of tools and methods for integration of DBWiki for anatomy maintenance in the scope of a Wlz3D-based image server were created. We extended our current codebase which is publicly available on SourceForge under an open source license. We investigated DBWiki for collaborative annotation of image-based data. We also identified further requirements for DBWiki's integration with other (bioinformatics) online resources. While DBWiki was found to be powerful enough for collaborative data editing, in its current state it lacked flexibility for server deployment and XML import/export capabilities that are required for most community-led annotation projects. Now that we have the system characterised and requirements clarified we have started to seek additional support to develop the DBWiki system. The postdoctoral researcher (Milyaev) has submitted two Fellowship applications to follow this work up.

10. Stimulated Raman Tomography for Optical Chemical Imaging (Dr Andy Downes, School of Engineering) - a theoretical estimation of signal levels suggested an initial redesign to the imaging method was required. This meant a change from a wide-field imaging system to a beam scanning system - otherwise we would have been unable to measure any signal whatsoever. Using a beam diameter of 0.15mm we achieved true chemical images of size 5mm x 5mm. This was demonstrated by using cuvettes with methanol and water, and measuring a signal only from the C-H stretch frequency in methanol. The depth of focus was only 1.8mm, limited by beam divergence, which needs future work to increase to above 10mm. This depth of focus, required for 3D tomography to be viable, may be achieved in future by a diffraction-free axicon lens. The achieved data may be enough to acquire research council funding, but further work could considerably help matters by trying different illumination schemes to achieve a larger depth of focus, and produce tomographic images by rotating the sample.
11. Building Realistic Demonstrator Systems and Case Studies for Optimization projects in Electrical Power Systems (Professor Ken McKinnon, School of Mathematics) - the relevant people from Power Optimization and E.ON visited Edinburgh, and we have met with people from local Edinburgh companies, Psymetrics and AF_Mercator. We have built and solved realistic models of the UK, Iceland and US East coast systems. The UK and Iceland systems have full AC network data and US system has DC network data. We also have dynamic data for the Iceland system that allow us to run realistic dynamic simulations. The data is all in a standard interchangeable format. Using the same format we have created a family of test cases which demonstrate the existence of local optima in optimal power flow problems. The data for these examples is on a public web site. Having access to this realistic data has been very useful for directing our work. For example the US system turned out to be much easier to solve that we had expected from our previous work with small test systems. It also turned out to be much more flexible and able to adapt to uncertainties in wind data than we had expected. This has led us to refocus our work. Through this work and the common interest in it we have been able to build good relations with some industrialists. The archive of local optima test problems has been very favourably commented by reviewers, and we expect similar response when more of our data sets and models are publicised. We are still in the process of using these new models to test and develop our software and this will continue for several months. We have been funded by a group in Trondheim to attend a workshop which will discuss collaboration on methods for optimally reconfiguring electricity networks. We believe that our models and realistic data will be invaluable for this project. We intend also to continue to work with the contacts we have developed in the UK electricity industry. Grant applications will follow.

12. Social Signal Processing: A Pilot Project to Explore Social Approaches to Curating Healthcare Data - Computer Mediated Social Sense-making (CMSS) (Professor Stuart Anderson, School of Informatics) - CMSS is the blending of diverse non co-located human expertise to aid the interpretation of data from sensors and computational sources. We achieved the following: (i) we held a highly successful CMSS workshop in Edinburgh attracting 15 participants from across the UK. This was a vibrant, interdisciplinary event that was structured to maximise exchanges across disciplinary boundaries. This blog post is an example of participants' positive responses to the workshop:; (ii) our paper "Socio-material design for computer mediated social sense-making" was accepted at the CHI2013 workshop on 'Explorations in Social Interaction Design'; (iii) with colleagues in the Breast Screening Service secured a grant to evaluate our ENGAGE radiology training software securing its future in the short term to serve as a platform for future social sense-making research; (iv) together with colleagues at the EPCC and St Andrews University we submitted a proposal to the EPSRC Software for the future call on sharing tests as a means for social sense-making of software quality issues. This application scored well, but was unsuccessful. We are pursuing further funding sources; (v) we continue to develop research in this area, and are currently working up a proposal to develop an electronic breast atlas from community sourced materials and training via serious games; and (vi) the Research Assistant employed on the project secured a senior position on the EU SmartSociety project, an IP to run over four years exploring social values and governance issues in the engineering of Collective Adaptive Systems that use coalitions of social machines to address societal problems.

13. Enhancing the Impact of the Synthetic Aesthetics Project (Dr Alistair Elfick, School of Engineering) - the funding was used to produce a Synthetic Aesthetics book, which included the colour printing costs at MIT Press (approximately 100 colour images), administration of image licenses and permissions (overseen by Daisy Ginsberg, the project’s design consultant) and graphic design, photo-shoot and production of original illustrations (overseen by Daisy Ginsberg). The objective was to enhance the impact of this unconventional interdisciplinary project by producing a highly visual and accessible book. We also wanted to contribute to scientific discussion and to secure a leading academic publisher. The funding has allowed us to achieve these objectives, which would not have been possible otherwise. The book has been copyedited and we will receive the proofs in June. MIT Press plans an initial print run of 3000-5000 copies. This will be the book first bringing together art, design and synthetic biology. It is timely, considering the recent investments in synthetic biology by the UK government and across the world. In addition to MIT Press’ marketing of the book, we are in discussions with several museums and galleries about possible launch events. We are seeking further funding for an exhibition based on the artworks produced by the project and discussed in the book.

Original languageEnglish
Type(ROS Return 2013) - EPSRC Final Report 2012
Media of outputElectronic Submission
Number of pages6
Publication statusUnpublished - 30 Jun 2013

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Unspent Grant Balances
  • Pump Priming
  • Small Projects


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