Whilst research at the School of Chemistry has impacts across business, the Government and in public engagement, it's fair to say that the strongest impact of chemistry research is economic. Central to our ethos is developing strong and lasting relationships with industry and with companies of all sizes, from large multinationals through to SMEs.
Through our extensive work with industry, we help to improve business performance by working collaboratively or in a consultancy capacity. We have a strong track record in patenting and licensing our research outputs and in creating successful spin-out companies. We also run industry-specific research lectures and industry days and include industrial input in our taught courses for undergraduates.
Alongside our work with industry, ensuring that our work also positively affects society in other ways is central to our mission. We run extensive and varied programmes of activities for the general public. Along with a large number of public lectures and workshops across the UK, we have also presented our research at venues such as the Norwich Science Olympiad, the Royal Society's Summer Exhibition and Café Scientifique.
All our researchers are supported in seeking and implementing impact from their research and we aim to ensure a focus on the end users of our research across all our projects.
Our case studies provide a few examples of the ways in which our research has had an impact.
Inspiring 10,000 people in 100 days
Working with Scifest Africa, which organises South Africa's National Science Festival, along with a range of other science engagement activities, Stephen Ashworth led 120 public events over the course of 100 days.
These events, which included workshops and chemistry shows, had a total estimated audience of 10,000 people including school pupils, teachers and science centre staff from 33 separate locations across South Africa. A range of scientific subjects were covered which aim to promote chemistry and to act as a valuable resource for teachers. For example, the Kitchen Chemistry show used readily available materials from supermarkets, hardware stores and pharmacies to demonstrate chemical principles. A second event, the RSC initiative Spectroscopy in a Suitcase allowed the participants to learn about visible spectroscopy. This was complemented by a workshop in which participants made their own simple spectroscopes. The physics of sound was the topic of another show which used home-made musical instruments to demonstrate the scientific principles of instrument construction.
Commercialising research instrumentation
Spectroelectrochemistry Partners, based in the School of Chemistry, has supplied to an international market a research device for advanced spectroelectrochemistry.
Designed by Prof Chris Pickett and Dr Joseph Wright, this potentiostatically controlled instrument interfaces with an Attenuated Total Reflectance (ATR) configured Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectrometer, allowing the study of molecules undergoing fast redox processes in an informative spectral range. It enables the study of key electron-transfer processes involved in electrocatalysis, organic or biomolecule transformations.
New technologies for old problems
For many years, pH-sensing remained relatively unchanged – until the launch in 2007 of a revolutionary new pH-sensing technology , the pHit™ handheld scanner. Co-invented by Dr Gregory Wildgoose from our School of Chemistry, this new technology is being exploited through a California-based spinout company, Senova Systems, which raised several million dollars of investment in 2012.
The technology solves several difficulties suffered by traditional techniques that use glass pH electrodes, which are fragile, require regular calibration, are prone to errors, blocking and mechanical failure.
Senova sensors are robust, self-calibrating devices which do not get blocked. They are sterilisable, reliable and can operate over a wide temperature range, outperforming industry standard glass systems.
Senova's first product, a hand-held, self-calibrating sensor called the pHIT has received two prestigious awards for innovation: the Frost & Sullivan North American Product Innovation Award 2012 and the Editor's Gold Award from Pittcon in 2013.
The IP underlying this technology has been licensed to Schlumberger Cambridge for use in down-well pH measurements in oil field applications, and to Senova Systems for all other applications. Senova continues to develop its product range for various biopharmaceutical and other markets.