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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S023631/1
Title: EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Soft Matter for Formulation and Industrial Innovation (SOFI2)
Principal Investigator: Bain, Professor C
Other Investigators:
Bromley, Dr EHC Hutchings, Professor LR Miller, Dr MA
Moreira, Professor TH Staykova, Dr M Titmuss, Dr S
Ries, Dr M Read, Professor DJ Allen, Professor RJ
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
AGMA Applied Graphene Materials plc Ashland Inc
AstraZeneca UK Limited Bayer CropScience (Global) Centre for Process Innovation Limited
Croda (Group) Devro Dupont Teijin Films (UK) Limited
Epigem Ltd Futamura Chemical UK Ltd GlaxoSmithKline plc (GSK)
IBM Infineum UK Ltd Institute Max von Laue - Paul Langevin
ISIS Merck Ltd Mondelez UK R and D Ltd
Nestle UK Ltd PepsiCo Premier Foods Group Ltd
Procter & Gamble Schlumberger Synthomer Ltd
Unilever (UK) University of Dundee
Department: Chemistry
Organisation: Durham, University of
Scheme: Centre for Doctoral Training
Starts: 01 October 2019 Ends: 31 March 2028 Value (£): 5,624,204
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biophysics Complex fluids & soft solids
Materials Characterisation
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Food and Drink Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 Nov 2018 EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training Interview Panel L – November 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Soft Matter is ubiquitous, in the form of polymers, colloids, gels, foams, emulsions, pastes, or liquid crystals; of synthetic or biological origin; as bulk materials or as thin films at interfaces. Soft Matter impinges on almost every aspect of human activity: what we eat, what we wear, the cars we drive, the medicines we take, what we use to keep clean and healthy, in sport and leisure. Soft Matter plays a role in many industrial processes including new frontiers such as digital manufacturing, regenerative medicine and personalised products. Soft Matter is complex chemically and physically with structure and properties that depend on length and time scales. Too often the formulation of soft materials has been heuristic, without the fundamental understanding that underpins predictive design, which hampers innovation and leads to problems in scale up and reformulation in response to changing regulation or customer preferences. Durham, Edinburgh and Leeds Universities set up the SOFI CDT in 2014 in response to the challenge from manufacturers across the personal care, coatings, plastics and food sectors to provide future employees with the skills to transform the design and manufacture of soft materials from an art into a science.

The dialogue continues with industrial partners, both old and new, which has resulted in this bid for a refreshed CDT in Soft Matter - SOFI2 - that reflects the evolving scientific, technological and industrial landscape. We have a new partnership with the National Formulation Centre, who will lead a training case study and contribute to the wider training programme, and with many new partners from SMEs to multinationals. We will seek to involve more small and medium-sized companies in SOFI2 by providing opportunities for them to engage in training and project supervision. SOFI2 will have increased training in biological soft matter, which has been identified as a growth area by the EPSRC and our partners, and in scale-up and manufacturing, so that our students can understand better the challenges of taking ideas from the laboratory to the customer. Social responsibility in research and innovation will be embedded throughout the training program and we will trial new ideas in participatory research where the public is involved in the creation of research projects.

Each cohort of 16 students will spend their first six months on a common training programme in science and engineering, built around case studies co-delivered with industry partners. They then select their PhD projects and join their research groups in Durham, Leeds or Edinburgh. Generic and transferable skills training continues throughout the four years, bringing the cohorts together for both academic-led and student-led activities. We aim to produce SOFI2 graduates who are business-aware and who are good citizens as well as good scientists.

The importance of Soft Matter to the UK economy cannot be understated. Industry sectors relying on Soft Matter include paints and coatings; adhesives, sealants and construction products; rubber, plastics and composite materials; pharmaceuticals and healthcare; cosmetics and personal care; household and professional care; agrochemicals; food and beverages; inks and dyes; lubricants and fuel additives; and process chemicals. A 2018 InnovateUK report estimate the formulated products sector (most of which involves Soft Matter) contributed £149 billion annually to the UK economy. The formulated products sector is undergoing a rapid transformation in response to a shift to sustainable feedstocks, environmental and regulatory pressures and personalised products. It will also be shaped in unpredictable ways by data analytics and artificial intelligence. SOFI2 will equip students with the knowledge and skills to thrive in this business environment.
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