Engineer sets sights on the stars with £1.3m Research Chair

Published: 10 April 2018

Professor Colin McInnes is named as a new Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies.

A University of Glasgow engineer is aiming for the stars after being named as a new Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies.

Professor Colin McInnes, the University’s James Watt Chair, Professor of Engineering Science, was selected for the rarely-presented honour to support the development of a wide range of innovative new space-based technologies. Colin McInnes

As Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Space Technologies, he will benefit from £1.3m in funding to advance new projects from fundamental research through to technology development with commercial impact.

The Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies scheme provides world-leading engineers with long-term support for emerging areas of research which are likely to be of economic and social benefit to the UK.

The scheme issues awards to academics only intermittently, with the most recent presented in 2012. Funding for the scheme comes from the UK Government’s National Productivity Investment Fund.

A total of 10 new Chairs were announced in universities across the UK by the Royal Academy of Engineering today.

Professor McInnes’ award, which will run until 2028, will help drive forward the development of new projects ranging from clouds of intelligent sensors to ultra-large gossamer structures fabricated in-orbit.

Prof McInnes said: “I’m delighted to accept the role of Chair in Emerging Technologies, and I’m most grateful to the Royal Academy of Engineering for their support.

“I’ve dedicated much of my career to space-related research and I’m very much looking forward to the challenges of the next 10 years in the role of Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Space Technologies.”

By devising, developing and demonstrating new space technologies across a range of length-scales, Prof McInnes’ programme of research will challenge the boundaries of current thinking to deliver the radical new ideas needed to support the satellite applications of the future.

These include enhanced space weather services for the digital economy, new terrestrial energy services and the long-term utilisation of space resources. The programme of research will integrate simulation, laboratory-scale development and technology demonstration as appropriate.   

As part of their appointment, the Chairs will develop Centres of Excellence in their areas of emerging technology, building and maintaining contacts with industry and other partners to accelerate commercialisation. 

Professor Dame Ann Dowling OM DBE FREng FRS, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “Emerging technologies offer enormous opportunities for the UK, both economically and socially, but often their potential is not widely recognised until it is championed by a visionary individual. The ten researchers who have been appointed as Chairs in Emerging Technologies are global leaders in their fields, seeking to transform their pioneering ideas into fully commercialised technologies with important and widespread applications.

“The UK has a rich history of championing disruptive technologies – from the development of the steam engine to the invention of optical fibre communications. Early stage technologies offer enormous potential for the UK to continue this legacy and it’s vital that we invest in both the technology, and the people behind it, to remain competitive in the global marketplace.”

The ten Chairs were selected by a panel of Fellows of the Academy, led by AI and open data pioneer, Sir Nigel Shadbolt FREng FRS.

First published: 10 April 2018

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