Engineering Network student co-ordinates collaborative workshop to broaden research knowledge between academics

As science in Wales continues to push boundaries in areas such as advanced engineering and materials, collaboration in research is proving essential in advancing and shaping the face of innovative science from within Welsh Universities.

This collaborative spirit was reflected this month with the launch of Swansea University’s Electrochemistry Workshop (SEW) which brought together early career researchers, including PhDs and Post Docs, as well as experienced lecturers and professors who were given the opportunity to showcase their expertise and strengthen research ideas through collaboration.

NRN SEW Workshop 1

PhD student, Francesco Mazzali, whose research is funded by the National Research Network (NRN) in Advanced Engineering and Materials (AEM) in conjunction with Rob Philips, of the Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) at Swansea University; realised the potential collaboration could have in furthering high quality research by simply providing a platform for scientists to discuss and grow expertise from those within the same discipline.

“The idea of this workshop came to Rob and I when we realised that despite working on different projects and in different research labs, we were facing the same issues within electrochemistry. Sharing our knowledge has proven beneficial for both of us.

Events such as ‘SEW’ are crucial in developing multidisciplinary collaborations. A network group such as this (for electrochemists) brings together knowledge and the chance to address bigger challenges - allowing single projects to further their research.”

– Francesco Mazzali, NRN140.

‌SEW, is an example of exploiting key collaborative opportunities from within one institution having brought together a range of academics from across the vast field of engineering, from projects such as SPECIFIC and ESRI, which promote research in renewable energy as well as bringing expertise from the Centre for Nanohealth and Swansea University’s Medical School, who focus on advancements in medical engineering. It is through workshops such as this that advancements and links between industry and academia can be made for future solutions to industry needs.

“By bringing together different expertise we are much more likely to address the important issues related to industrial processes and manufacturing.  It is always difficult to have a fast deployment of the technologies discovered in the lab to an industrial scale. This type of workshop aids addressing the various problems at different scales from the lab to large scale production.  The approach of different group can make this much faster and attract strong collaborations with industry.”

– Professor Serena Margadonna, PI, NRN140 

Professor Serena Margadonna, a lead specialist in materials at Swansea University and Principal Investigator to an NRN AEM funded project stresses the influence workshops can have in being the catalyst for collaborative exchange.

“Workshops such SEW are of pivotal importance for encouraging strong collaborations among academic groups. They provide the right platform to showcase the different expertise and instrumentations available which can be used to answer a number of scientific questions in a variety of different research fields.

Groups involved in corrosion, energy storage and carbon capture (to name a few) came together and discovered how they can strengthen their research through a synergic effort.”

 – Professor Serena Margadonna, PI, NRN140 

NRN SEW Workshop 2As part of the Welsh Governments ‘Science for Wales’ initiative the exchanging of research ideas, across both academia and industry is crucial if Wales is to further itself on the international scientific stage. Universities contribute in excess of £1 billion to the Welsh economy in gross expenditure each year and maintaining this contribution through collaboration is a crucial stronghold for the Welsh economy.

The NRN AEM is a network that aims to expose this ideal by highlighting the advantage that collaboration can have upon the enhancement and development of new ideas, concepts and inventions for economic growth in Wales. It provides the opportunity for early career researchers, academics and industrialists alike to network across partnerships and provide a positive impact for collaboration.

“The NRN has provided opportunities to attend networking events which allows the bringing of people together from different institutions and backgrounds. Through this, I learnt to present and deliver my work to a broad audience and I have been able to grow the confidence to co-ordinate a workshop such as SEW.”

-       Francesco Mazzali, PhD Student, NRN140

Francesco, whose research focuses on the enhancement of future developments in battery technology through advanced novel materials, hopes in conjunction with Rob, to make SEW  an annual collaborative event with scope to work with partnership university’s and industry from across the NRN AEM network to tackle industrial challenges through academia research.

“The workshop was a great success and we are already looking to next year’s appointment. The positive response from across the university encourages the possibility to open doors to partnership universities of the NRN such as Cardiff and Bangor University.

The integration between Welsh institutions could lead towards a further advance of high quality top rank research, speeding up the processes of tackling new scientific challenges and bringing solution to the industrial world.

– Francesco Mazzali, NRN140