The University’s Bath Beacons initiative is underway, supporting a culture of grant capture for large-scale funding to tackle major research challenges, aligned to the University’s priority research themes of Digital; Sustainability; and Health and Wellbeing.

An invitation to submit an Expression of Interest (EoI) to form a Beacon was issued at the University in June 2021. Following a strong response and competitive outcome, five Beacons have now been approved for the one-year pilot and two early-career researchers have been supported to develop towards a future Beacon. Research and Innovation Services (RIS) will provide pre-award, research development and KE expertise and dedicated support for the Bath Beacons through a range of activities, to support their ambitions.

The Beacons were selected following a review of the EoIs by the Bath Beacons Steering Group and two panel meetings in July, involving the Vice-Chancellor, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), the Deans and Associate Deans for Research (ADRs). The Beacons are:

Sustainable and automated transport research

Professor Andrew Heath, Deputy Head of the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering, will lead a Beacon that brings together researchers from across the University to solve key problems facing sustainable transportation systems. The initial focus will be on road transportation and autonomous vehicles, with the aim to expand this to rail, maritime, and air travel. The beacon lead team involves academics from across all faculties and the school, and has strong links to IAPPS and other existing research groups.

Living well now and by 2050

Professor Carol Taylor, Department of Education, will lead a Beacon to improve social and environmental justice, transform decision-making on environmental change and engender new practices of living well. Aligned to the current Climate Action Framework implemented at the University of Bath, the Beacon’s work will be shaped around questions of how knowledge, values and skills can be harnessed to develop better (more ecological, biodiverse and ethically relational) planetary futures; what living well within environmental limits will look like/ be like/ feel like; and how government, industry, third sector, educational organisations and grass-roots communities can be encouraged and enabled to make the just transitions required. The research programme will be oriented to how to engage people in the profound changes in behaviour, consumption and lifestyle practices required.

Future fuels: hydrogen and its carriers

Professor Tim Mays, Department of Chemical Engineering, will lead a University-wide Beacon with the vision to build research capacity, facilities, and expertise on campus in the production, storage, distribution and end-use of zero-carbon hydrogen and ammonia, synthetic hydrocarbons from hydrogen and CO2, and biofuels. These Future Fuels will eventually displace oil-based transport fuels and natural gas for heating and electricity, which together make up over half of global CO2 emissions.

Augmented human

Professor Eamonn O’Neill will lead a Beacon to assist and augment the human in multiple ways and settings including: assistive technology for overcoming disabilities; enhancing performance for all in daily tasks; enhancing performance in extreme conditions from elite sport to emergency services. This work entails augmenting both body and mind, providing assistance physically (e.g. smart prosthetics, brain-driven exoskeletons) and mentally (e.g. dementia care, cognitive and perceptual assistive technologies). It will also aid early prediction and diagnosis of conditions from blood cancer to Alzheimer’s disease, contributing to prevention and care. They will develop, evaluate and exploit a range of technologies including hardware and software.

21st century public health

Professor Harry Rutter, Social and Policy Sciences, and Professor Anna Gilmore, Department for Heath, will lead a Beacon that brings together existing strengths in global health at the University to create ground-breaking approaches to public health and sustainability for the challenges of the 21st Century. Many preventable diseases are driven by the consumption of unhealthy commodities (tobacco, alcohol, sugar sweetened beverages, ultra-processed foods, excess salt) promoted by major corporations, with current attempts to address them having largely failed. They will go beyond these approaches with a shift in focus to action, working at all levels of the complex systems driving health and building on the global reputation of the Tobacco Control Research Group (TCRG).

Developing Beacons

Two ‘Developing Beacons’ were highly commended for support. These are led by Dr David Ellis from the School of Management who is looking to develop a future research capacity in the cultural, economic and psychological value of new and emerging forms of data; and Dr Anna Young from the Department of Mechanical Engineering who plans to generate a future-focused design philosophy for wind and tidal turbines, encompassing both technical performance and environmental impact; this will help inform government policy as next steps are taken towards net-zero.

Professor Julie Barnett, Acting Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research) says:

The five Beacons that have been selected to kick off this new initiative are addressing an exciting set of challenges involving a wide range of disciplines across the University. It is also great to see the support given to researchers earlier in their career in the form of the two Developing Beacons. The quality of all the teams and proposals gives us every confidence that the Beacons will further extend our capacity to lead large funding proposals.

Launch event

There will be a Bath Beacons Launch Event for you to hear from the Vice Chancellor and Beacon leads first-hand. This will take place on Monday 8 November, 13.00-14.00 on Microsoft Teams Live; please look out for an email invitation.

Further information