EPSRC sponsors high-profile research collaboration between the UK and Taiwan
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is to fund a top-level collaboration programme in the field of nanophotonics between the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton, the University of Bath and the National Taiwan University (NTU). This collaborative research project aims to exploit the enormous potential of the new field of nanophotonics which emerges when we force light to interact with nano-structures - artificial matter engineered and arranged on the scale of only billionths of a metre.
‘NTU, widely recognised as one of the best universities in Asia, is located in what was historically known as the beautiful island of Formosa,’ comments Professor Nikolay Zheludev, Deputy Director of the ORC and Principal Investigator. ‘Now Taiwan, it promises to be one of the most important high-tech nations of the future. Up until now, research links between the UK and Taiwan institutions have not been well developed.’
The teams will work together to develop a remarkable range of new materials, creating a platform for next-generation technologies. These novel materials will help transform existing technologies and will have applications in low power, ultra-small devices which can be used in a wide range of fields, from information processing, telecommunications and data storage to defence-related monitoring, security, medicine and biotechnologies.
‘This funding will provide us with an excellent opportunity to work with internationally leading research groups, and create a lasting impact throughout the academic community, by generating high-profile fundamental science, delivering new concepts and highly trained researchers,’ says Professor Zheludev. ‘Together with Professor Din Ping Tsai, our Taiwanese partner, we believe that by combining Southampton’s strength in fundamental aspects of nanophotonics with NTU’s close industrial links and expertise in applied aspects of nanophotonics, we have the potential to connect fundamental research to real-life applications which can be readily commercialised.’
Professor Zheludev continues: ‘We hope that this programme will help to attract future industrial funding from Taiwanese high-tech companies to UK laboratories and act as a magnet for further collaboration partners.’
This collaboration will create several significant benefits for Southampton. In particular, ORC researchers will have direct access to the optical data storage industry and will also be able to use Taiwan’s high-value industrial-standard data storage test facility. Such direct exposure to real-life application requirements will be immensely helpful in focusing the ORC’s research agenda.
Apart from obtaining new research results and greater licensing opportunities, all groups will benefit from a broadening of research horizons and familiarization with the vastly different research practices in host laboratories on opposite sides of the world.
Professor Zheludev continues: ‘As part of this collaboration programme, a series of exchange visits will be planned for senior staff, researchers at early stages in their careers and research students. Training opportunities for Taiwanese PhD students in the UK will be another clear benefit of the project.
‘In the modern world, where research and development are rapidly being globalized and outsourced, there is a real shift of research activities from the traditional powerhouses of the West to industrial countries with good educational systems, cheap labour and favourable economic climate. Evidence of such changes can be seen in the relocation of key research centres of international blue-chip companies to the new industrial nations. This presents a major challenge to the UK research base that can be best addressed by taking a central role in this new worldwide reality and establishing mutually beneficial R&D collaborations with new players.’
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Notes for editors
1. The research groups involved in this programme are the ORC at the University of Southampton (www.orc.soton.ac.uk), the Centre for Photonics and Photonic Materials at the University of Bath (www.bath.ac.uk/physics/groups/cppm) and the Centre for Nanostorage Research at National Taiwan University (www.ntu.edu.tw/eng2007).
2. The Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton is one of the largest university-based research groups entirely devoted to optoelectronics in the world, and has maintained a position at the forefront of photonics research for over four decades. Its long and well established track record in the fields of optical fibre, lasers, waveguides, devices and optoelectronic materials has fostered innovation, enterprise, cross-boundary and multi-disciplinary activities. It has built strong links with industry, research institutions and universities around the world, from informal collaborations to large-scale funding. Several spin out companies, including Southampton Photonics Inc, Stratophase Ltd, Mesophotonics Ltd and ChG Southampton Ltd, have commercialized the fruits of ORC research; while its extensive outreach programme has brought lasers and optical fibres into schools across the country.
3. For more information on this EPSRC scheme, ‘Collaborating for Success through People’, visit http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/CallsForProposals/Archive/CSP.htm