Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Analytical science

This research area looks at the development of novel techniques, or novel application of existing techniques, to analyse chemical or biological matter and systems, for example.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

This research area looks at the development of novel techniques, or novel application of existing techniques, to analyse chemical or biological matter and systems, for example. This research area includes developing or translating techniques to determine chemical structure. It does not include techniques specifically aimed at researching physical and chemical phenomena between two interfaces (captured in the Surface science research area).

Our aim is for the analytical science research community to have developed a clearer identity – alongside recognition of analytical science’s status as a research area in its own right and not just an enabling technology – with a distinctive and valuable contribution made by this area towards all EPSRC outcomes.

This will include:

  • encouraging development of community identity by refocusing a proportion of investments towards research that includes coordination and collaboration activities – this will provide community leadership in areas of national need and support the career development of research scientists working in analytical science
  • reinforcing the research nature of the area by facilitating activities aimed at producing an overarching set of research challenges that will provide a framework that the community can coalesce around – especially transformative and disruptive techniques and approaches, and user-informed research.

In view of its disruptive potential in a number of applied areas – and to contribute towards organisational priorities – we will help the community to strengthen links with industry and other intended users of new techniques.

These include techniques that elucidate chemical structure, for instance. For Healthy Nation, analytical science should make better use of our Healthcare Technologies Impact and Translation Toolkit to better realise this potential.

Why we're doing it

This is an interdisciplinary area with broad applications and challenges. It also has a range of equipment needs and approaches to using it.

The UK is world-leading in analytical fields such as Raman spectroscopy and in structure-characterising techniques, such as mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. The breadth of the area, however, has led to a lack of clear community identity.

The UK both develops novel techniques and readily adapts technology to novel applications, and these are critical, often disruptive enablers for other areas of research. Novel approaches and brand new techniques do not always start with a clear application in mind, but where potential applications can be conceived, the constraints on and requirements of the eventual user need to be considered. For example, real-time structure determination during a reaction could have applications in a manufacturing plant and environmental constraints there could influence the technique’s development.

Industrial users across a number of sectors, including pharma, agrochemical, health, forensics, manufacturing, energy and sensors regard the development, improvement (such as greater sensitivity) and use of analytical techniques as business-critical. User needs should therefore inform a proportion of the UK’s research activities and priorities in this area.

A large fraction of our investment in analytical science is in training. Industry has a significant need for people trained in analytical scientific skills. The UK research community would also benefit from more pull-through of this training into academia.

This research area relies heavily on the availability of capital. A significant proportion of our investment in this area therefore supports infrastructure through facilities or equipment. Research activities will be best served by the community making best use of existing equipment and considering the optimal use of the limited new capital investment available.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for Analytical science.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Who to contact

Hannah Lilley


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