University of Sheffield scientists honoured for being at forefront of research and innovation in the UK

Two academics from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering have been recognised for their outstanding research that is at the forefront of research and innovation in the UK, and have been awarded Future Leaders Fellowships by UKRI.


UK Research and Innovation has just named the latest recipients of its Future Leaders Fellowships, and amongst the names are two associated with the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Sheffield.

Dr Dikai Guan and Dr Dan Cogswell will receive a portion of the £900m fund set up by UKRI to help to establish the careers of world-class research and innovation leaders across UK business and academia.

Dikai’s research will look at the ‘Development of strong, formable, stainless and low-cost magnesium alloys for next generation cars’, and will contribute to the UK’s ‘Future of Mobility’ Grand Challenge by working towards the design and manufacture of ultra-low/zero emission vehicles. It is suggested that a 10% reduction in vehicle weight can lead to around an 8% improvement in fuel economy.

Dr Dikai Guan

While the use of magnesium would offer significant weight savings, there are long-standing issues around high production costs, low formability and high corrosion rates associated with magnesium alloys, when compared to traditional automotive materials. His fellowship aims to develop light, low-cost magnesium alloys with high strength, good formability and high corrosion resistance to replace heavier aluminium and steel components.

Dikai’s fellowship receives over £1m funding over 4 years, and will allow him to build a research team and establish experimental facilities. It will involve collaboration with industrial partners TWI Ltd and Luxfer MEL Technologies, as well as academic partners from King’s College London, Imperial College London and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.

Meanwhile, Dan Cogswell’s research is on ‘Risk Assuring Future Structure Critical Systems: Combining 21st Century Science with Engineering Intuition’. In this work, Dan will lead a programme to develop a 21st century manufacturing and property assessment process, implementing risk and assurance methods by combining cutting edge materials science, mechanical engineering and data analytics.

Dr Dan Cogswell

This will involve developing robust structural integrity methodologies based on physical understanding and statistical confidence to guide engineers on just how much and what type of effort needs to be placed in risk assuring the performance of a component. This will lead to engineers taking advantage of the full potential of a material, particularly when used in high-value products used in the automotive, aerospace, healthcare and energy sectors.

Dan’s fellowship receives £2.5m of funding over 4 years, and will involve the University of Manchester, Imperial College London and the Advanced Forming Research Centre as academic partners, and Rolls-Royce and Sheffield Forgemasters as industrial partners. 

On his fellowship, Dikai comments: "Receiving the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships is a breakthrough to my academic career, enabling me to become a Principal Investigator for the first time and conduct independent research.

"In the long term, my ambition is to create and expand a world leading team known for its expertise in developing materials science, engineering based alloy selection techniques, manufacturing and thermomechanical processing.

"Thus, this fellowship will be not only the beginning of my independent research focusing on light Mg alloy systems, but will also be a very important foundation to enable me to lead future light weighting research areas distributed in automotive, aerospace, medical and defence sectors and act as an ambassador for UK science and innovation."

Dan adds: "The Future Leaders Fellowship award is an incredible opportunity to make a lasting and transformative contribution to the development of engineering capability for the UK. This Fellowship enables me to take a substantial step forward in my career moving from focussing on a single sector within a company environment to a multi-sector role fostering links between industry, academia and policy makers. 

"A real key to this will be developing people, not just technology, to make lasting impact and take advantage of the materials science ability of the UK in safely solving the engineering challenges of the future."

Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, said: “The Future Leaders Fellowships are UKRI’s flagship talent programme, designed to foster and nurture the research and innovation leaders of the future. 

“We are delighted to support these outstanding researchers and innovators across universities, research organisations and businesses.”

Kirsty Grainger, Director of the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships, said: “That businesses are hosting Future Leaders Fellows demonstrates the fellowships’ potential to create innovative solutions that can deliver transformational change for industry and wider society.

“The Future Leaders Fellows represent some of the most brilliant people working in the country. We’re supporting researchers from every background – from the arts to medicine, and the social sciences to engineering – helping them become the research and innovation leaders of the future.” 

The Future Leaders Fellowship scheme has already been through two rounds of awards, with 119 fellowships having been awarded, with one being awarded to Dr Daniel Humphreys ( from the Department of Biomedical Sciences in Round 2. To have been awarded four fellowships in Round 3 - two in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, and two in the University's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences - is an excellent achievement for the University.

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