By the end of the Delivery Plan period, our aim is for the Analytical Science research community to have developed a clearer identity, alongside recognition of Analytical Science's status as a research area in its own right and not just an enabling technology - with a distinctive and valuable contribution made by this area towards all EPSRC Outcomes.
This will include the following specific actions:
- To encourage development of community identity, we will refocus a proportion of investments towards research that includes co-ordination and collaboration activities. This will provide community leadership in areas of national need and support the career development of research scientists working in Analytical Science
- To reinforce the research nature of the area, we will facilitate activities aimed at producing an overarching set of research challenges that will provide a framework that the community can coalesce around. Within these challenges, we will particularly encourage inclusion of transformative and disruptive techniques and approaches, as well as user-informed research
In view of its disruptive potential in a number of applied areas - and to contribute towards EPSRC Outcomes - we will help the community to strengthen links with industry and other intended users of new techniques (which include techniques that elucidate chemical structure, for instance). For Healthy Nation, Analytical Science should make better use of our Healthcare Technologies Impact and Translation Toolkit to better realise this potential. (Evidence source 1)
This is an interdisciplinary area with broad applications and challenges; it also has a range of equipment needs and approaches to using it. The UK is world-leading in analytical fields such as Raman spectroscopy and in structure-characterising techniques such as mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. The breadth of the area, however, has led to a lack of clear community identity. (Evidence sources 2, 3,4)
The UK both develops novel techniques and readily adapts technology to novel applications, and these are critical, often disruptive enablers for other areas of research. Novel approaches and brand new techniques do not always start with a clear application in mind; but where potential applications can be conceived, the constraints on and requirements of the eventual user need to be considered. For example, real-time structure determination during a reaction could have applications in a manufacturing plant and environmental constraints there could influence the technique's development.
Industrial users across a number of sectors (e.g. pharma, agrochemical, health, forensics, manufacturing, energy and sensors) regard the development, improvement (e.g. greater sensitivity) and use of analytical techniques as business-critical. User needs should therefore inform a proportion of the UK's research activities and priorities in this area. (Evidence sources 5,6,7,8,9,10)
A large fraction of our investment in Analytical Science is in training. Industry has significant need for people trained in analytical scientific skills. The UK research community would also benefit from more pull-through of this training into academia. (Evidence source 11)
The Analytical Science research area relies heavily on the availability of capital. A significant proportion of our investment in this area therefore supports infrastructure (facilities or equipment). Research activities will be best served by the community making best use of existing equipment and considering the optimal use of the limited new capital investment available.
Currently contributing especially to the Healthy Nation Outcome, with investments linking particularly strongly to the Optimise Diagnosis and Treatment Ambition. Potential for future investments to contribute towards all Outcomes and examples are given below for the Healthy and Productive nation outcomes:
H1: Transform community health and care
This research area has a significant role, for instance, in self-management (e.g. home-based monitoring of diseases and conditions, such as breath analysis for disease detection).
H2: Improve prevention and public health
This area can assist determination/monitoring of hazards (e.g. air quality, antimicrobial resistance) in built environments.
P1: Introduce the next generation of innovative and disruptive technologies
This area can aid development of measurement technology and chemical sensor technology for material/chemical processing in advanced manufacturing.
P3: Establish a new place for industry that is built upon a 'make it local, make it bespoke' approach
This area will generate novel techniques or adapt existing techniques that can be used in distributed manufacturing environments.
- Healthcare Technologies Impact and Translation Toolkit.
- EPSRC, Analytical Science Review, (2015).
- EPSRC, Roadmap Exercise in Raman and IR Spectroscopic Capability in the UK, (2016).
- EPSRC, Roadmap to Provide Internationally Leading NMR Infrastructure for UK Physical Sciences, (2013).
- EPSRC, Terahertz Science and Technology Roadmap, (2016).
- Government Office for Science, Forensic Science and Beyond: Authenticity, Provenance and Assurance, (2015).
- Government Office for Science and Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), Animal and Plant Health in the UK: Building Our Science Capability, (2014).
- EPSRC, The Importance of Engineering and Physical Sciences Research to Health and Life Sciences (‘the Maxwell review’), (2014).
- Stanford University, T-Sensors Summit for Trillion Sensor Roadmap, (2013).
- National Measurement Office and Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), The National Measurement System: Strategy Document 2011-2015, (2011).
- Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), Bridging the Skills Gap in the Biopharmaceutical Industry: Maintaining the UK’s Leading Position in Life Sciences, (2015).