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Physics and Astronomy


Alastair Hibbins is the Director of Business Engagament and Innovation for Physics and Astronomy, and Natural Science. Please get in touch if you would like to discover more about our research and innovation.

Physics at Exeter is a vibrant and collaborative department, boasting world leading facilities centred on multidisciplinary research, where we can provide leadership, attract dynamic staff and secure new funding.

We believe that excellence in research and impactful science comes from great networking.  Our long-standing experience in working with industrial partners in ICT, food, energy, energy and sustainability, healthcare, and defence & security sectors enables us to provide fit-for-purpose collaborations, adjusted to the needs of a variety of businesses, from SMEs to large companies.

"Over the last 5 years, I have highly valued and thoroughly enjoyed working with Physics and Natural Sciences academics, research scientists, post-docs and students at Exeter University.

Having sponsored several projects and PhD studentships from microwave metamaterials to nutrition science, I am continually impressed by the depth and breadth of scientific capability, talent and can-do attitude.

Our partnership has enabled access to a broad range of world class facilities, link scientific excellence to technical delivery, and has created a large external network that is particularly relevant to industrial R&D partners."

Read more from John Bows

John Bows

R&D Director, PepsiCo

What we offer

Our expert team specialises in particular sectors and services.  They will work with you through the process of collaborating with the University to make sure that we can provide what you are looking for and that you have a great experience.

Whether you are a small, medium or large-scale organisation, contact us to discuss your ideas, needs and how we can advise on the most appropriate route for each project and assist you in accessing the right research expertise.

These projects are ideal for a company who wishes to work on a research problem by jointly working with academics. Such projects may be co-funded in partnership with UKRI (e.g. STFC, EPSRC, Innovate UK). Formal collaboration agreements will set out the partners’ right to use the research outputs for future development and exploitation.

These projects are commissioned by the industry partner and carried out by researchers in our Department. Deliverables will define the contracted work and a fee will be charged that fully covers the cost of the activities, and so that you own all new intellectual property generated.

This is project work that suits a business that requires expert advice and input from the our academics to provide a solution to a particular technology problem.

We are able to offer opportunities for our industry partners to engage in different types of student projects, including PhD funding and summer placements for excellent undergraduates.  The majority of our PhD students within the Centre for Metamaterials Research and Innovation are partly or wholly funded by Governmental or industry partners.  Please contact us if you wish to map out a project scope. We are also interested to hear from any company who can offer student prizes, sponsorship of student events, scholarships, or can support a Year-in-Industry undergraduate. 

We run an “Applying Physics” course for final-year BSc students in January-March every year which involves small groups of 4-6 students working on problems set by external clients. Example past clients include local industries, the Home Office, and the Met Office. A problem set by the client could be, for example, working on some aspects of technology, data, or methodology that are of interest scientifically but there are insufficient resources to investigate. An indicative level of involvement for the client while the project is running would be typically: meet the team for an initial briefing (mid Jan), receive project progress updates (Feb/Mar), attend (or host) a final summative presentation on the results (end March), and comment on the final submitted report (end March). These projects are a good way to gain exposure to our students, while the students are motivated by the interest of an end user outside the university.

"I really enjoy working with the Centre for Metamaterial Research and Innovation at the University of Exeter. By regularly interacting with academics and cohorts of students, we can build up understanding and working relationships that work both ways.

So, rather than a linking to individuals (e.g. PhD student and/or supervisor), the link is to an evolving and communicative research group. This allows us to efficiently kick around ideas to set up work packages and research proposals (to match funding opportunities that come our way)."

Read more from Dr James Dalley

Dr James Dalley

Lead Engineer at Leonardo UK, Luton

Our core research

We focus our research around key areas, including:

  • Astrophysics
  • Biomedical physics
  • Electromagnetic and acoustic materials
  • Quantum systems and nanomaterials

Our academics within those groups work with national and international academic and industry partners, through research projects, PhD studentships, and consultancy. For example, we have developed several new and important links to local SMEs, including working closely with local digital media companies (We The Curious and Engine House VFX) to develop hugely successful VR videos depicting exoplanet research which have allowed both companies to significantly expand. Our most recent and successful spin-out is Concrene Ltd (January 2019) which aims to reduce the carbon footprint of the concrete industry using 2D material technology; Concrene Ltd has been shortlisted for an Innovation award by the Royal Society of Chemistry, and received £1M from investors.

"The team at Exeter were very open in their approach to problem solving and delivered theoretical and experimental results that exceeded our expectations.

The outcome for TCS was a new product that passed all qualification testing and a physical demonstrator that we could show and discuss with interested parties.

We also thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to integrate physics with engineering and learn the fundamentals from experts in the field."

Read more from Mike Sloan

Mike Sloan

Managing Director at Technical composite systems (TCS), South Devon, UK

Regionally we have strong links to the Met Office, and our academics are working with NHS consultants in new hospital-based physics labs are investigating novel directions in healthcare tech.  Our Centre for Metamaterials Research and Innovation (and its doctoral training centre) is strongly industry facing, working with partners across a broad range of sectors, ranging from defence, security, telecoms, energy, and the food and beverage industries.