College research summary

The College of Science & Engineering’s outstanding performance in Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 reflects world-class, fundamental research that has impact on many aspects of modern life.

With nearly 2,000 staff, the College is one of the largest science and engineering groupings in the UK.

Of our seven submissions, four of which were submitted as a joint research school with a partner institution, three were ranked top in the UK and all seven were in the top five in their discipline in the Times Higher Power rankings. The work of more than 95 per cent of our staff was submitted.

This reflects world-class research that spans the disciplines of biological sciences, chemistry, computer science and informatics, geosciences, engineering, mathematical sciences, and physics and astronomy. This research excellence provides the essential platform for the generation of single discipline and multidisciplinary research impact.

Research centres

The multidisciplinarity and breadth of the College is demonstrated by the establishment and support of more than 30 strategic research centres. These include:

  • BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering
  • Centre for Design Informatics
  • Centre for Immunity, Infection and Evolution
  • Centre for Numerical Algorithms & Intelligent Software
  • Centre for Science at Extreme Conditions
  • Centre for Synthetic and Systems Biology
  • Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation
  • Edinburgh Materials & Microanalysis Centre
  • Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre
  • Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics
  • Industrial Doctorate Centre in Offshore Renewable Energy
  • International Centre for Mathematical Sciences
  • MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine
  • Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
  • UK Biochar Research Centre
  • UK Carbon Capture & Storage Research Centre
  • UK Centre for Astrobiology
  • Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Biology

We play a leading role in developing impact that addresses clear societal and technological needs in fields including healthcare, sustainable energy, global warming, the low carbon economy, natural hazards, animal welfare, data science, systems engineering, fire safety, robotics and autonomous systems, astronomy and measurements under extreme conditions.

The College’s research impact is both large in scale and broad in scope. It includes commercial impact (through IP generation and exploitation, technology transfer, strategic partnering, company formation, consultancies and professional services), policy impact (through advocacy, expert advice provision, government and public policy formulation) and social and cultural impact (through public engagement, community building, education and training).

It is nurtured through staff development and training, through dedicated, coordinated School and College impact infrastructure and staff, through strategic collaboration and partnership building, and through dissemination and outreach activities.

Examples of research impact

  • Biological sciences research has shown the World Health Organisation that drug control treatments for schistosomiasis are effective and safe. As a result, these are to be used on up to 10 million preschool children in sub-Saharan countries.
  • Fire safety engineering research has been used to improve global building regulations, without which, according to construction industry leaders, iconic buildings such as the Shard could not have been built.
  • A leading example of a spin-out company generated by the College is MTEM, which exploits a revolutionary oilfield survey technology. When set up in 2004, MTEM was the largest spin-out from university research in Scotland, and it was bought four years later by Petroleum Geoservices for $275 million.
  • Deliverics is a chemistry spin-out that has commercialised biodegradable transfection agents for the research tool and RNA therapeutics markets in the UK, the US, Spain and South Korea.
  • The College has considerable experience of supporting student spin-outs, as illustrated by Speech Graphics, which has commercialised research from the School of Informatics, delivering high-quality audio-driven animation for games developers and music video producers.
  • Bayesian statistics applications developed with collaborators in New Zealand and Switzerland are being used by law enforcement agencies in the UK, Europe and Russia to choose the right sample size for the most cost-effective production of robust evidence.
  • We have a 25-year record of the application of supercomputing to deliver impact across the digital economy, for both companies that produce the technology and those that use it. In particular, this research has been used in computers developed by IBM. The resultant state-of-the art technology is the most efficient in the world and is now installed worldwide.