Breakthrough 2013: Swansea research showcased

A new edition of Swansea University’s chief research publication – Breakthrough – has been published, which showcases the breadth, quality, and impact of the University’s research across its six academic Colleges.

Breakthrough Leighton AndrewsThe 160-page volume was launched by the Minister for Education and Skills, Leighton Andrews, in the presence of Wales’ Chief Scientific Officer, Professor John Harries, at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay on Tuesday, February 5.

From ground-breaking work in antimatter research, nanotechnology and engineering, to remarkable revelations about climate change and advances in medicine, Swansea University has already contributed greatly to the advancement of knowledge and our understanding of the world in which we live.

And Breakthrough gives a glimpse of just some of the University’s most recent world-leading, globally collaborative, and internationally recognised research, which is carried out with some of the world’s leading organisations and blue chip companies including Airbus, BAE Systems, CERN, Rolls-Royce, Tata and Tata Steel.

Exciting times for Swansea University…

Breakthrough GroupProfessor Richard B Davies, Swansea University’s Vice-Chancellor, said: “Unprecedented levels of investment in our research infrastructure have included state-of-the-art developments on campus and structural changes within our academic Colleges, fostering an environment in which world-class research flourishes.

“These are exciting times for Swansea University. Recent highlights have included several major initiatives, including the realisation of the second phase of the Institute of Life Science, and our new Science and Innovation Campus is among the most exciting and ambitious projects in the UK Higher Education sector for decades, reinforcing Swansea’s growing reputation as one of the most rapidly progressing universities in the UK.

“In the latest (2008) Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), Swansea achieved the highest growth in world-leading and international-quality research activity of any university in the UK, with more than 90% of our academic staff classed as research active – effectively confirming our position as a truly research-intensive university. The subsequent doubling of our research income is evidence that this upward trajectory is being maintained.

“This new edition of Breakthrough provides an overview of the scale and impact of research being undertaken at Swansea and captures the vitality of the research environment now firmly established at the University.”

Recent progress has been impressive…

Professor Ian Cluckie, Swansea University Pro-Vice-Chancellor, said: “Swansea’s approach to research builds on the aspirations of our founders, who in 1920 set out to respond to the requirements of industry. Their first five Chair appointments were in engineering, metallurgy, physics, mathematics, and chemistry – fields which remain prominent in the form of today’s STEM subjects and which underpin many of Swansea’s most notable advances.

“Recent progress has been impressive, but our challenge now is to accelerate that momentum. We have pledged to continue our policy of strategic appointments; to sustain the growth of research grant income through improvements in bid-quality; to engage more researchers in grant-winning activities, and to build effective national and international collaborations.

“Each of Swansea’s six Colleges houses research clusters that bring together research institutes, private companies, the public and the third sector, and which build our capacity to lead in new and emerging areas. Moreover, our campus-based setting, and researchers who have invested in interdisciplinary work, have enabled a programme of cross-College collaboration that is a distinctive and energising aspect of the University’s dynamic research environment.”

A new era for the University and its research…

Professor Noel Thompson, Swansea University Pro-Vice-Chancellor, said: “Decades of applied research have enriched our economy and society. The UK Government’s growing emphasis upon impact reflects a guiding principle that informs our campus development programme, a vital catalyst for a development that provides a European hub for STEM research and industry collaboration.

“A further commitment to multidisciplinary research ensures that we combine strengths in STEM with research in the social sciences, arts and humanities, and business, economics and law, to address many of the world’s most complex and pressing challenges.

“The Science and Innovation Campus development heralds a new era for the University and its research. This significant investment will enable us to harness research strengths to a broad range of local and transnational business enterprises, and to promote the growth of high-technology clusters.

“Research informs all academic and student-based activities across the University and a research culture characterised by its vitality is pivotal to the future of the institution. By developing the University’s research portfolio, attracting and retaining the most talented researchers and postgraduates, and by working within and across disciplines, Swansea will continue to address the current and future challenges that confront Wales and the wider world.”

For more information about research at Swansea University visit

Swansea University will hold a Festival of Research from Monday, February 25 until Friday, March 1, supported by Bridging the Gaps, a collaborative programme supported by a £780K grant from the EPSRC, which aims to deliver high-quality projects directed towards the global physical, economic and social challenges that face today’s modern world. 

Breakthrough’s front cover (pictured above) features an image entitled “When the blue stuff hits the fan”, by Rami Malki of Swansea University’s Marine Renewable Research Group, College of Engineering.

The image, which was one of the winning entries in the University’s 2012 Research as Art competition, shows the flow structure evolving downstream of a tidal stream turbine, generating renewable energy from the sea.

Computational Fluid Dynamics Modelling is used to predict the flow features around rotating blades, and stream surfaces are implemented to highlight the movement of flow within swirling regions downstream.