Heriot-Watt Crucible V fosters future research impact

Crucible researchers from Edinburgh University, Selex ES, the British Geological Survey, Moredun Research Institute and Heriot-Watt University at our Dynamic Earth, Edinburgh.

The fifth Heriot-Watt Crucible programme to run in the past two years ended last month with the promise of a wealth of new interdisciplinary collaborations being forged between researchers from the five Edinburgh-based research centres specially chosen to take part.

Academic researchers from Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh were joined by colleagues from the Moredun Research Institute, the British Geological Survey and industry partner, Selex ES on Heriot-Watt Crucible V - an intensive leadership development programme for "research leaders of the future". Following their initial meeting in January 2013, the Heriot-Watt Crucible V participants undertook a series of workshops hosted by the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Scottish Parliament, Heriot-Watt's School of Textiles and Design, the Moredun Research Institute, Edinburgh Zoo, Selex -ES and Our Dynamic Earth. Engaging with numerous experts from academia, industry, media and government, the group explored building collaborations that would maximise their interdisciplinarity and innovation, and lead to wider impact for their future research collaborations.

Novel interdisciplinary projects

At the end of the three-month programme, participants were challenged to formulate novel proposals for interdisciplinary projects which they went on to pitch to a high-level panel including Professor Steve Chapman, Principal Heriot-Watt University; Quentin Cooper, BBC Radio 4 broadcaster; Professor Ian Underwood, Head of Institute for Integrated Micro & Nano Systems, University of Edinburgh and Teresa Fernandes, Professor of Environmental Science, Heriot-Watt University.

The winning Crucible team at the final event brought together researchers from Heriot-Watt University (Dr Mark Hartl, School of Life Sciences and Dr Paul Dalgarno, School of Engineering & Physical Sciences) and University of Edinburgh (Dr Maria-Chiara Ferrari, School of Engineering and Dr Stephen Moggach, School of Chemistry) in a project called "Tragic Plastic" which aims to reduce the amount of plastic pollution in the marine environment through development of an automated microplastic particle detection system. Commenting on the overall experience, Dr Hartl said, "What I specifically liked about the Crucible were the group activities that enabled networking with colleagues from schools or institutions whom I would not normally come into contact."

Enhancing innovative research capacity  

Heriot-Watt Crucible aims to help participants develop skills, knowledge and connections to enhance their innovative research capacity and impact through interdisciplinary collaborations and knowledge exchange. It is designed by Dr Ruth Neiland, Head of Academic Enhancement and Prof Alan Miller, Deputy Principal, Research and KT, Heriot-Watt University and based on their award-winning Scottish Crucible programme        

Commenting on the on-going success of both Heriot-Watt Crucible and Scottish Crucible, Dr Ruth Neiland said, "We have been really pleased to see how open Crucible participants are to exploring collaborations across multiple disciplines and institutes. The innovative research ideas that have emerged as a result of their interdisciplinary interactions bode well for enhancing participants' future research impact. "