South West Nuclear Hub wins Academic Innovator award


The South West Nuclear Hub is the proud winner of an The Engineer Collaborate to Innovate Award, following a recent ceremony in London.

Judged by a panel of leading UK engineers, and sponsored by Frazer-Nash Consultancy, winning entries had to demonstrate that they were innovative, collaborative and likely to have an impact in their field of application.

The Hub entered in the Academic Innovator category, which is awarded to a university department that demonstrates a sustained culture of innovation and collaboration with academic and business partners. Hub members the University of the West of England (UWE) were also shortlisted in this category, featuring the University of Bristol and UWE joint venture the Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

Returning from the ceremony, Jamie Townes, Industrial Engagement Manager at the Hub, said: "It is always exciting to showcase our collaborative research with the nuclear energy sector to a new audience. The scale and diversity of innovation on show at the Collaborate to Innovate awards was hugely impressive, everything from healthcare to autonomous vehicles. So it was satisfying to see the work of our talented researchers recognised with this award, as well as the value of their work in the important areas of low carbon energy and responsible nuclear decommissioning".





Collaborative Projects Recognised

As part of the submission, the Hub highlighted three projects that demonstrates its ability to pull together industrial and academic partners to find novel solutions to industrial challenges. The three projects were:

1. Exploring Radioactive Environments with Pipeline Devices

A number of prototype devices were designed that allow for the remote characterisation, mapping and exploration of pipe networks whilst conducting gamma-ray spectroscopy.

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Researcher on this project Freddie Russell-Pavier, a PhD student in the School of Physics, said:

“The South West Nuclear Hub at the University of Bristol is a riveting place to develop ideas through to deployable prototypes! We’ve really been enabled by open source platforms, rapid prototyping tools and a clear vision from the top.

This has all come as a result of listening carefully to challenges that our industrial partners highlight to us and fully involving them in the development process thereafter. That, plus one or two all-nighters".

2. Diamond Detectors for Dose Rate Measurements in Highly Active Environments

The miniature diamond detector system allows real-time dose rate measurements to be made remotely from inside difficult to access areas, creating maps of radioactivity in hazardous facilities which have small access ports and complex networks of pipes and vessels. This device was deployed on a live site at Sellafield.

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Project lead Dr Chris Hutson, a Research Associate at the University of Bristol, commented: "It’s fantastic that our innovations at Bristol are making real impact by solving the challenges of our nuclear decommissioning partners, both in the UK and abroad. It’s great that our contributions are being recognised by a prestigious organisation such as The Engineer".

3. Seismic qualification of graphite

The University of Bristol constructed a quarter-sized Advanced Gas-cooled Reaction (AGR) physical model in collaboration with EDF Energy and Atkins, to understand the seismic structural integrity effects of anticipated progressive cracking of the thousands of hollow graphite bricks that make up the AGR core structure.

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Lead investigator Professor Colin Taylor from Bristol's Faculty of Engineering said:

"The PLEX project has delivered great value to all its stakeholders by forging a strong, learning-focused, partnership between the university, EDF Energy and Atkins. By doing so, the unified team co-produced fundamental academic research and effective engineering solutions.

The project exploited the EPSRC Earthquake Simulator, 30 years old this year, highlighting the long term benefits of government investment in major research infrastructure. We are looking forward to similar collaborative successes through the new £13.5M UKCRIC facilities at Bristol".

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The Engineer: Collaborate to Innovate Awards

The Engineer magazine covers the latest engineering news, technology, business and innovation news, analysis and insight.

This annual award ceremony aims to celebrate the best examples of innovative, technology-led collaboration, from the biggest and boldest infrastructure projects to the most fundamental technology breakthroughs, effective collaboration is the lifeblood of engineering innovation and the annual Awards and Conference celebrate the most effective partnerships.

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