Cover image of Perspectives, University of Salford Research & Enterprise magazine. Volume 1, Issue 1

Perspectives magazine

Research and enterprise at the University of Salford

Solving the right problems

Professor Nigel Mellors is the newly-appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Enterprise at Salford, but he has a long history with the University and in business, which dates back to even before his undergraduate student days...

Professor Nigel Mellors, Enterprise Pro-VC, University of SalfordWhy did you choose Salford as a student?

I began my career as an entrepreneur developing my first enterprise venture from leaving high school, which I sold 10 years later and took the opportunity to study at University. I visited several places and considered my choice carefully before deciding to come to Salford for a physics degree.

What is your research about?

I started out looking at nano-transmitters and the “Joule effect”– it was fascinating to be studying what James Joule posited right here at Salford, 150 years later. I’m currently very interested in energy reduction and how to reduce the amount of waste. It’s a topical issue and one which affects everyone on the planet. Did you know we lose 2 kilowatts (kw) of energy for each kw used – so if your kettle uses 3kw, it actually costs the system 9kw because it takes 3kw of wasted energy to produce each kw used? We don’t need more power if we can address this energy loss.

When I started work in this area I thought it was all about the technologies and improving those, but actually there is much more to consider in terms of people’s behaviour and behaviour change. In effect, it’s the connection between technology and people which matters – houses themselves don’t use energy, people do.

How does a business know where to start in terms of working with the University?

It could feel like searching for a needle in a haystack trying to find out who out of our 800-strong academics would be the right person to approach. So we’re building a gateway into the University and a responsive team behind that. It has to be a two-way partnership between business and researchers – even “pure” research funding agencies are interested in the impact research can have and how technologies can be exploited and commercialised for everyone’s benefit.

We are keen to develop long term relationships with key partners and stakeholder both at regional and national level and a more integrated approach of both research and enterprise. I believe this approach will lead to a more meaningfully and sustainable relationship for both the university and our partners. We have a number of great cases studies where this has worked extremely well including the partnership with Greater Manchester Fire Service where a number of academics from across the University are engaged in developing and supporting the Fire Services goals.

Tell me more about Energy House

Energy House is a unique facility for people to easily see how research and business come together and get industry in to the University. Right now some of the projects we have underway look at thin materials to insulate buildings, particularly retrofitting old stone or listed buildings with easily installed energy saving measures including double-glazing or new external cladding and internal insulations because of space restrictions or aesthetics. There are many disciplines needed to develop new technologies including nanotechnology, physics, engineering, the built environment and architecture, but we need to also include end users and installers. If these technologies are not installed correctly then they can work 10-20% less efficiently than predicted which has a significant impact when the UK has 26 million houses to make more energy efficient within this decade if it is to meet its carbon reduction commitments.

What’s your vision for the future of enterprise at the University?

I want the University to be a place business can connect with academics and real-world research. To do this we need to understand academics’ needs as well as what industry needs. It should be a place where public, commercial, and contract research funding come together as the model for going forward. We need to make sure all parties understand their shared goals and how they’re going to achieve them. Salford is in a really good position to capitalise on its heritage in terms of real world research.

We have a long history of connecting industry and public sector, and have been doing this for over 50 years. As a University, we’re very good at solving problems, but we need to work with business to ensure we’re solving the right problems.

To find out more about Energy House and some of our consultancy work with industry, visit: www.salford.ac.uk/energy.

Professor Nigel Mellors, Enterprise Pro-VC, University of Salford