University of Hull secures £1m of Physics funding for major European projects

A European-wide project which hopes to change the future of computing has helped the University of Hull secure £1m of Physics funding.

The University’s Physics Department has been successful in two grant funding bids, on offer as part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.

Professor Brad Gibson, Head of Physics at the University of Hull.

One project is focused on improving the performance and speed of future computers, with the second centred on improving knowledge exchange with businesses and research centres across Europe.

The two projects combined have seen the University secure £1m of vital funding.

Professor Brad Gibson, Head of Physics at the University of Hull, said the University had “punched well above its weight” to secure the two prestigious grants.

He said: “These two grants are hugely significant to the Physics Department and the University as a whole – they provide us with the capacity and the ability to be involved in some major international programmes.

“Being involved in projects of this scale raises the profile of Hull as a university, and will hopefully also make it easier for us to apply for future funding.

“We are in an enviable position to contribute to these major projects, which could hold significant benefits for future generations of physicians and scientists across the world.”

Of the £1m of funding secured by the University’s Physics team, around half came from the Horizon programme’s Future Emerging Technologies bid.

The University, alongside the University of Cambridge, is a partner in the European-wide Poseidon programme.

Focused on improving the speed of computers of the future, the project has the potential to be transformational.

“Computers are fundamentally limited by the physical properties of the information carriers which drive them, tiny charged particles called electrons,” Professor Gibson said.

“The Poseidon project aims at replacing those electrons with photons – ‘particles’ travelling with no restrictions, at the speed of light. 

“By removing the limitations imposed by electrons, the Hull team – Drs Martin Buzza, Ali Adawi, and Jean-Sebastien Bouillard – will develop the technology which has the potential to revolutionise the field of computing.”

The University’s £2m “supercomputer”, known as Viper, played a pivotal role in securing the second grant for Hull.

The project – backed by the Horizon programme’s ‘Integrating Research Infrastructures of European Interest’ funding pool – focuses on bringing together the expertise and facilities of institutions and businesses across the continent.

With knowledge exchange at its core, it aims to improve our understanding of science by increasing the amount of information shared between experts across the world.

“This project is all about linking together different groups who are currently working in isolation, who require information and data which already exists elsewhere,” Prof. Gibson said.

“For example, my interest lies in the chemical elements which our Galaxy, stars, and planets, are made up of, and how the distribution of those elements may or may not lead to the develop of complex life elsewhere. 

“In order to probe these challenges, I am dependent on the complementary skills of nuclear and stellar physics, which is where the expertise of my Hull co-investigators, Drs Marco Pignatari and Richard Stancliffe, lead the world. 

“Our infrastructure grant will support researchers, students, and facilitate outreach across schools and colleges in the region.” 

The University’s Viper high-performance computer is capable of sending vast amounts of data much more quickly than a regular computer can.

Professor Gibson said Viper had been crucial in the success of landing the second half of the £1m funding total.

“It is rare for an institution like Hull to secure this level of grant funding,” he said.

“It leaves the University in a fantastic position to play a leading role for the next 4-5 years in two hugely important projects.

“In an incredibly competitive environment, where fewer than one in ten grants are funded, securing £1M in Horizon-2020 funding from the European Union is a testament to the truly world-leading research being undertaken with the department here at Hull.”

[Phil Winter – University of Hull]