Chemical structure

Determination of chemical structure by spectroscopic, diffraction and thermodynamic techniques.

This research area has evolved over the last few years and can now be considered to encompass two broad topics:

  • Technique development
  • Application of structural information in further research

We have considered the strategy for this area and concluded that the drive to continue developing new and improved tools/techniques to understand chemical structure can be better supported through more coherent strategies under these two topics. As a result, from the beginning of this Delivery Plan period:

  • Development or translation of techniques for the elucidation of structure will be captured within the Analytical Science research area
  • Research using structural information will be covered under the appropriate application area (e.g. Catalysis, Computational and Theoretical Chemistry, or Synthetic Supramolecular Chemistry)

This means no new investments will be categorised under the Chemical Structure research area and its size will naturally reduce as current investments come to an end. New investments supporting Chemical Structure research will be captured within other parts of the EPSRC portfolio, as described above.


The UK is world-leading in many relevant fields of science and technology, including mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, reflecting the ability of UK researchers to develop or readily adapt new analytical techniques to study structure (Evidence source 1,2).

The close alignment of technique development/adaptation for the elucidation of structure with analytical science more broadly means that this aspect of the Chemical Structure field is often viewed as a constituent of Analytical Science. Both areas rely heavily on infrastructure, which is often shared (including large facilities supported through the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC)), and training also frequently covers both of them.

There is increasing recognition that this training is addressing an important skills need for analytical and measurement-literate people. UK research would benefit from more pull-through of this training into academia, in addition to existing routes into industry. To maintain the UK's position in technique development, there is a need for a common strategy for Analytical Science and Chemical Structure. (Evidence source 1,2,3)

Chemical Structure is a vital tool broadly used as a measurement science that supports many fields of the physical sciences, engineering and the biological sciences. Although academic users of structural information currently have strong, established leadership, many of these leaders would consider that their main skills lie elsewhere (e.g. catalysis, computational chemistry, supramolecular chemistry).

For industrial users, the development, improvement and use of analytical techniques is considered business-critical. Structure elucidation and understanding is seen as an important, potentially transformative and disruptive element of this requirement. Relevant sectors include pharma, forensics, manufacturing, energy and sensors, and the strategies of users - whether in industry or academia - should be given greater consideration. (Evidence source 3,4,5,6)

This are has the potential to contribute to all Outcomes but in particular the following Healthy, Productive and Resilient Nation Ambitions:

H4: Develop future therapeutic technologies

Iterative elucidation of the structure-function relationship during the design of new therapeutics will accelerate development and improve understanding of drug interactions and doses.

P1: Introduce the next generation of innovative and disruptive technologies

Advanced manufacturing relies on measurement technologies and the ability to probe structures during processing (i.e. without removing samples) would deliver big benefits.

R1: Achieve energy security and efficiency

Demand is growing for diverse, more accurate methods for determining structure that allows innovation in fuel design, while carbon capture requires new carbon-selective absorbent materials. The design of these requires understanding and prediction of molecular and bulk structure.

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships.

EPSRC support by research area in Chemical structure (GoW)
Search EPSRC's research and training grants.

Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: Physical Sciences
Organisation: EPSRC