The UK has set up a £25m (€27m) streamlined research fund for ‘adventurous’, high risk projects.
The New Horizons programme has already funded 126 projects with up to £200,000 for two years without having to detail costs.
These projects include the a system of electromagnetic mirrors to protect electronic devices such as smartphones from threats, as well as superconducting diamond structures and tools that tiny robots need to detect bowel lesions that could be signs of cancer.
The pilot project in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI),
“New Horizons reflects EPSRC’s commitment to funding creative, transformative and ambitious new ideas across our portfolio. In this pilot, we have funded more than 100 projects in the mathematical and physical sciences,” said EPSRC Executive Chair, Professor Dame Lynn Gladden. “The scheme also piloted a new, simplified applications process designed to minimise the administrative burden of submitting grant applications, thereby enabling researchers to focus on developing their research ideas.”
Dr Gabriele Gradoni at the University of Nottingham intends to design a system of electromagnetic mirrors that can be used to protect electronic devices such as smartphones or computers from threats such as attack by electromagnetic pulse or data theft
Dr Georgina Klemencic at Cardiff University aims to develop super-thin superconducting diamond structures, tens of times narrower than a human hair, with properties that will be crucial to the development of new quantum technologies.
Dr Yuval Elani at Imperial College London aims to create a molecular assembly line to create compartmentalised soft-matter nanoparticles. This could help to create particles that can be programmed to respond to certain stimuli, and lead to more effective drugs and vaccines.
Dr Yang Liu at the University of Exeter intends to develop the mathematical tools required to allow micro-robots to detect hard-to-visualise bowel lesions within the human body, that could identify conditions such as cancer.
Next: Streamlined research application process
“It is critical we give the UK’s best researchers the resources to drive forward their revolutionary ideas so they can focus on identifying solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges, such as climate change,” said UK Science Minister Amanda Solloway.
“This government funding will allow some of our brightest mathematicians and physicists to channel all their creative ingenuity into achieving potentially life-changing scientific breakthroughs – from mathematics informing how we save our rainforests to robotics that will help track cancer faster.
The proposal paperwork for the research submission consisted of an anonymous four-page case for support, with a further two pages outlining the team’s ability to deliver, with the successful projects providing detailed costings after a decision was made.
EPSRC will now evaluate the pilot and the outcomes of New Horizons in line with the wider UKRI ‘Reforming our Business’ programme and consider how the research projects can be included in future activities.
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