Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Alien Species Carried on the Hulls of Ships Under an Attack Funded with Old Money

Science of Protecting the Environment Courtesy of Prince Albert
Shipping News Feature

UK – When he established a Commission to fund scientific advances almost 170 years ago, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's consort, could have had little idea that his innovation would have the potential to fund research to detect the presence of alien species carried on the hulls of today's enormous cargo carrying vessels.

The funding from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, set up by Prince Albert to organise the Great Exhibition of 1851 and extended by him in perpetuity to spend the substantial profits from that momentous event, has now awarded Industrial Fellowships worth up to £80,000 each to nine of the UK’s most talented young scientists and engineers.

The range of technologies funded by the Fellowship include a new technique to improve success rates of a cancer treatment that uses gene editing to ‘hack’ the body’s cancer-fighting capabilities, synthesising a naturally occurring chemical to improve cancer treatment by attacking cancer’s cellular defences, harnessing artificial intelligence to predict long-term flooding trends, and a process similar to photosynthesis to produce a molecule that is widely used in drug fabrication.

These Industrial Fellowships recognise the best research projects that could advance British industry, allowing companies to conduct innovative research that accelerates the creation of exploitable internet protocol. The project which will interest those associated with the maritime trade however is a computer vision technique for automated identification of invasive species on ships’ hulls. Bernard Taylor, Chairman of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, said:

“Supporting British innovation is more important than ever before. These Industrial Fellowships provide an opportunity for British businesses to conduct cutting-edge R&D and develop intellectual property at reduced cost. This year’s Industrial Fellows include some of the brightest minds in fields spanning artificial intelligence and gene editing, and include new and exciting potential treatments for cancer. These promising young researchers represent the huge diversity of talent in science and engineering that Britain has to offer.”

The Industrial Fellowships provide graduates with up to £80,000 each to undertake doctoral studies, enabling them to develop innovative technologies with commercial potential in collaboration with a business and academic institution. The projects, funded for up to 3 years, will ideally lead to a patent or substantial business development, allowing the young researchers to conduct impactful research while gaining valuable industrial experience.

The Fellowship programme plays a crucial role in facilitating the relationship between universities and industry in the UK, by offering highly valued funding for research and development into new intellectual property, totalling around £2 million every year. One of the lucky recipients of funding is Marie Dale, together with AkzoNobel and the University of Durham receiving a grant to further the cause of the automated identification and predicted translocation of marine hull invasive species using artificial intelligence.

Full details of the awards together with applications for the 2020 Industrial Fellowships are viewable here. The Commission has previously funded luminaries such as Nobel laureates Professor Peter Higgs, Sir James Chadwick and Paul Dirac.

Photo: Biofouling can cause a range of problems, from poorer fuel consumption to extensive corrosive problems.