Innovation Is Here

16 April 2018

Cohort 4 researcher Jake Rankin describes the event;

The Construction Equipment Association (CEA) held an Innovation Is Here event at One Great George Street, Westminster. Several companies had displays at a mini exhibition such as Nylacast, KHL and Perkins. There was also a huge library owned by the Institute of Civil Engineers even containing a Lego tower bridge (to engage younger, and also older, audiences with civil engineering). The event was sponsored by JCB and Perkins. The reason for visiting was to develop an understanding of the industry position with regards to AI.

The conference was moderated by Nick Higham (BBC broadcaster and journalist) who spoke about the need for the civil industry to move with the times with technology such as Industry 4.0, Internet of things and automation.

CEA Honorary President David Bell (JCB) gave a rundown of the program before introducing the first speaker, Duncan Riding (Senior Technical Steward of Perkins) who gave a talk titled Future Fuels - Diesel, Hybrid Electric...? His talk was broken up into three sections:
- The Important Issue
- Air Quality
- Future Fuels
The issue that Duncan discussed was the need for energy, and focused particularly on how dependent we were on it. This then led to why we still needed Diesel engines and suggested that electric was not yet ready for the demand (this would create an interesting discussion between themselves and Volvo, who were looking at electric technology). Duncan also spoke passionately about climate change and energy, with some good examples on Diesel vs electric cars. The key lesson from that using a basic energy equation could still highlight fundamental issues (such as the required overloading needed to supply a motor power, the amount of battery needed etc).
Air quality was then discussed, focused on particulates. 25-100 micrometers was the harmful range that Perkins needed to address and they presented their latest technology using Diesel Particulate Filters and a a Diesel Exhaust Fluid which reduced particulate emissions by 98%.
Finally, Duncan spoke about the Future of Fuels. He mentioned that in a review paper that 76% of industry leaders believed that hydrogen was the Future, however this was contradicted when further discussions with these leaders yielded concerns for packaging hydrogen and creating an infrastructure, similar issues to electric. This was also supported by a conversation he had with Prof Garner at Loughborough University.

Professor Rob Scott (Advanced Manufacturing Research at University of Sheffield, AMRC with Boeing) gave a talk on the Factory of the Future. He discussed the state of British manufacture when compared to other countries like France and Germany and highlighted that Britain urgently needed to modernise. The key point that he raised was of Horizontal Learning. This is where one industry learns about a technology from another industry, the example he suggested was civil engineering and manufacture. He then went on to discuss the changing customer demands of wanting everything customisable and delivered yesterday and talked about applicable technology that could be used to tackle this such as Cyber-Physical Systems and the Internet of Things. Rob then discussed the five key technologies available to civil engineering:
- AI and machine learning
- VR and AR
- Additive manufacture
- Robotics and automation
- Big data and connectivity
In particular, Rob focused on the importance of data, using famous case studies such as Uber and Airbnb to highlight how industries make money by selling a service, not a product.

The next talk was from Dale Hawkins and Mark Kennedy (UK Plant Operators) titled A View from the Cab - Augmented Reality training. This talk was particularly well received as it addressed a key issue in the industry; young people not going into civil engineering, particularly machine operating. The average age of a plant operator is 54 in the UK and companies were struggling to train up enough young drivers to meet demand. Mark then presented one solution; an AR cab setup to help train drivers in a safe environment whilst also engaging a younger “gaming” generation. This was a popular talk and several people were keen to try out the simulator.

After lunch, Inma Martinez (Deep Science Ventures, Innovator and Data Scientist) gave an insightful talk titled The Future is Now. She spoke about technology trends within information management and gave an overview on the various types on machine learning. It was encouraging to see that Inma spoke highly of Reinforcement Learning. Inma also discussed on of their projects; Blockchain. Inma also discussed about various data-mining methods and spoke about HPC methods and Exascaling (the reduction of data for useable scales) .This is a continually growing list of data that is secured by cryptography. What was also amazing to learn was that she was one of the pioneers of the internet, developing her work at CERN and has been involved with several projects, including helping to develop the first AI for mobile personalisation.

The final talk was from Jenny Elfsberg (Volvo CE, Director of Emerging Technologies) one Does the Construction Industry Need Innovation? The Journey from Manual to Autonomous Equipment. Jenny demonstrated Volvo’s current autonomous technology; an electric dump-truck and a hybrid loader. Jenny then went on to discuss the reasoning behind choosing electric, stating that one of the advantages was the simplicity. In a quarry environment, it could be relatively easy to establish a charging infrastructure because it is a smaller, contained environment. Electrification was also shown to be valuable from a Value Stream Mapping perspective, which aims to highlight waste within a system. The two biggest causes of waste energy were within the hydraulics (12%) and energy losses from the Diesel engine (63%). Because of this, electric energy was investigated where Volvo stated that this loss could be removed with electric hence their switch. Jenny then started explaining the journey needed to go towards full autonomy, comparing it to what Volvo had already developed.

Overall, this was an exciting and thought-provoking conference and gave me an opportunity to talk to leading figures in industry. For more information, please visit

Industry Open Day

15 April 2018

On 13 April Loughborough University hosted an Industry Open Day to promote the work of our researchers and opportunities for collaboration. Representatives from a range of companies attended the event from SMEs and large organisations with interests spanning smart manufacturing, AI, sensing and data analytics to name but a few.

During the afternoon attendees were given tours of research facilities on campus covering Loughborough University Centre for Autonomous Systems (LUCAS), Sports Technology Institute, Vision, Autonomous and Human-Computer Systems Research, Building Performance Laboratories and Embedded Integrated Intelligent Systems research.


Industry Day

Cohort 2 researcher Jamal Umer tells us abou the event;

I attended the conference on 14th and 15th March-2018 at the IET Austin Court Birmingham. This 2-days conference was an excellent opportunity to learn about recent progresses in the field of tribology. The keynote speakers were well-famous tribologist from universities and industries. In addition to those there were quite interesting poster talks from PhD students from various universities. This conference had various talks ranging from lubricant additives, friction, wear and coating technologies. In-situ measuring techniques to measure wear in tribometers by gathering online topographical data was interesting experimental procedure.  and topography was quite interesting. Conversations with several speakers also directed me to further literature review that will make me think of new aspect of current research. It was also good opportunity to get in touch with my industrial sponsor.

Planning for Impact

19 March 2018

Cohort 2's Rhys Comissiong and Cohort 3's Robin Hamer attended the Planning for Impact workshop. Robin explains;

On the 12th March 2018 an event was held at Loughborough University by Red Vector Ltd (an independent energy consultancy firm specialising in interactive learning). The context of this workshop was regarding the energy sector, which is applicable to myself as I work with EDF energy – nuclear.

Since the energy sector is being transformed, new solutions are being created as various organisations seek to address society's demand for energy in ways that reduce its environmental footprint. This creates opportunities for researchers - working with those organisations and individuals who are seeking to deliver innovative, low carbon energy solutions. Creating solutions to address this need is not just about technology, it’s about policy, economics, society and the business models that bring all of these together; thus providing an excellent route to create impact from work.

The one-day workshop took the form of an interactive strategic game which was designed to give an experience of identifying, prioritising and managing relationships with those needing research outputs, in the hope of creating impact. The game was fun whilst giving experience of making effective, quick decisions around stakeholder engagement, delivering effective communication of work and most importantly delivering high quality research. The simulated research environment saw teams of 3 undertake 5 years of energy-related research starting from the point you finish your PhD. Resources (time and money) were given and had to be spent wisely to build influence, create academic excellence and in turn create impact. There were various routes of doing this within the game – Public funding, industrial sponsorship, academic excellence exposure and general expose e.g. building exposure from a website. In addition, various elements of chance within the game influenced how careers progressed, based on what we did and the opportunities created.

I learnt a few important points from this workshop. Firstly, I found the workshop highlighted how important taking an impact-based approach is to project development. Secondly, how important being proactive and engaging with the right stakeholders is. Finally, it was interesting to see how many different avenues of exposure there are for work to gain impact, albeit novel ways such as producing videos, running research blogs etc. On another note, I felt the environment of the game allowed us to enhance personal skills such as: team work, negotiation skills and strategic thinking.

Since this workshop was a pilot of the game, there were some improvements that could be made to make it even better. A feedback session at the end gave us an opportunity to give thoughts and opinions on the successes and shortcomings of the game which I hope the creators will develop. All in all, it was a day well spent and I will be implementing points learned from the session within my own PhD.

Cohort 4 researcher, Steve Ward explains;

On Tuesday 5th and Wednesday 6th March I attended the Ambition UK Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response Expo. This ran alongside the Security and Counter Terror Expo, and Forensics Europe Expo as part of UK Security Week, hosted at the Olympia, London.

During the expo I represented my co-sponsor company INMM (In Manibus Meis), demonstrating the research currently being undertaken at Loughborough University as part of the CDT-EI, and its link with their commercial offerings. Whilst at the event, I spent time on the companies exhibition stand meeting key stake holders and gaining a deeper insight into the operation of the business. There was a few prominent interested parties the company will be exploring further. Additionally, over the course of the two days there were opportunities to expand my own personal network, and attend a variety of talks by a wide range of interesting speakers as part of the conference programme. The insights gained from this will be extremely beneficial in applying my research outputs, taking into account the current relevant problems within the wider industry.


Cohort 4 researcher, Matt Smith, tells us about attending his first research conference;

Matt OsEach year the Ordnance Survey (OS) invites the PhD students it sponsors to its HQ in Southampton for a workshop involving presentations of each student’s current status and work, panel discussion on topics and general networking. There were 22 PhD students present at the workshop, all from different backgrounds and Universities spanning the UK and even including one person who travelled from New Zealand.

Each student had the opportunity to prepare a poster and presentation. My poster focused on the opportunities of my research question and how I was planning to tackle the area, as I don’t have any data yet. My 10-minute presentation echoed this in more detail, giving examples of some of the design methods I want to use and what I have read so far. There was an hour-long poster session on both days which allowed the staff members to come and ask us about our projects. Feedback on my poster was positive. In particular, they found it visually appealing and engaging, however, it perplexed a few as it isn’t what you would expect for a typical PhD poster!

I felt quite unique as I am the only researcher with a ‘pure’ design background and the only one focussing on wearables and actual physical prototyping. From the conversations I had the majority of other researchers were focused on data, ontologies and especially deep/machine learning and forms of automation. As well as meeting other researchers sponsored by OS I was able to speak with a number of staff members, one person in particular, Tim Newman, expressed an interest in the project as he could see possible applications within the walkers’ community.


Written by Luke Wilkinson, Cohort 4.

Between 9am of Tuesday 6th March and 9am Wednesday 7th March, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) ran its annual research poster Twitter competition. The idea behind the competition is for researchers to promote their own research area to not only the research community, but to a global audience through Twitter. Entrants had to post their academic research poster on Twitter, and use one of ten hashtags which best describes their area of research within chemistry along with #RSCPoster. Twitter users could then tweet entrants questions about their research. The RSC scientific committee kept an eye on posters which stimulated wide interest and featured innovative research; however prizes were given based on content & accessibility, design and interaction with other Twitter users.

I was one of six entrants from Loughborough University with my research poster; “Is My Circuit Board Wet?”. The competition was a global event, drawing interest from the research community in multiple countries. In the afternoon of the competition, a Twitter account @ErrantScience, well known for making light hearted cartoon abstracts of RSC Poster competition entrants reproduced my poster, putting a comedic spin on the content. This was one of only six posters in the whole competition to receive the Errant Science treatment, which significantly boosted interest in my research. On Friday 9th March, it was announced I had won 1st prize in the materials category, winning £100 prize money and a certificate.

The competition reached a global audience of over 1.9 million people, so to win was a massive achievement. As yet, I am undecided how I will spend the winnings.

Even after the competition had closed, all of Loughborough’s entrants were still answering questions and receiving support from the scientific community which shows that STEM research at Loughborough is thriving.

Congratulations Luke!


Cohort 2 researcher Jamal Umer explains his recent trip to University of Manchester....

I attended the workshop on 07th March-2018 at the Chemistry building of University of Manchester. The workshop was organized by the Bruker UK Ltd. During the workshop several topics were quite informative and enabled me to gain insight into valuable knowledge regarding nanoindentation, In-Situ tribological testing in SEM and AFM as useful tool for 3D printing for certain applications.

The talks on the atomic force microscopy enabled me to expand my knowledge on this topic. One new aspect of AFM that was demonstrated at the conference has potential to be incorporated in my later research. Conversations with several speakers directed me to further literature which would make good introduction to further aspect of my research.  

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