Dr Andy West
Principle Chemist, Pera Technology
“The first Nuffield placement allowed us to publish a peer-reviewed paper on the student’s research, which is a great boost to our business’s reputation within both academia and industry. The second research placement enabled us to file a draft patent and win further funding from the UK Government to support the development of the project.”
What type of research projects do you offer?
Pera Technology has been developing new products and technical solutions for other companies for nearly 70 years, but we have recently started to develop our own technology projects. As such, our work is very varied and research projects can range from biofuels, recycling, advanced materials and alternative energy production to design and construction of prototypes, computer simulations and robotics. With around 100 scientists from various disciplines working together, formulating new project ideas is quite common but finding the time and resources to investigate them further is much more difficult. This is where Nuffield students can help us to trial new ideas and determine how likely they are to lead to a commercial solution. The company has a strong focus on sustainability and both of our Nuffield projects to date have related to chemistry and materials research.
What motivated you to offer a Nuffield Research Placement?
I had an idea for a technical solution to a problem faced by the rubber industry but I did not have the time or budget available to validate the solution myself. I anticipated that we should be able to evaluate the concept with a short research project, so I approached the Nuffield Foundation for a student to help us. The quality of the first student we were awarded was so high that we had no hesitation in requesting another student the following year.
What are the key benefits of hosting Nuffield students?
The Nuffield programme is a great way for Pera Technology to scrutinise new project ideas for possible future investment. As with any modern company, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is important to us and hosting motivated, highly-talented students aligns perfectly with our CSR agenda. On a personal level, I have been able to develop my supervisory skills which has proved to be an excellent CPD opportunity.
The students get experience working in a professional research environment which enables them to see how new products are developed from initial concept to commercial reality. We ask them to present their results to an audience of colleagues from different areas of business, and we actively encourage them to submit their project to the National Science + Engineering Competition. We aim to either publish or patent the outcome of their work which is an immense boost to their CVs and university applications.