The new director of a Shropshire-based environmental science and technology research centre says she is relishing the opportunity to build fruitful long-term relationships with the local business community.
Dr Julieanna Powell-Turner has taken on the role as academic research director at The Centre for Research into Environmental Science and Technology (CREST), based at University Centre Shrewsbury.
CREST successfully bid for a European Regional Development Fund grant of almost £1.2 million, with a contribution of almost £800,000 from the University of Chester.
The aim of CREST is to help and support Shropshire Businesses develop innovative ideas with an environmental theme. Eligible businesses can access 12 hours free support with the opportunity to engage in long term research and innovation projects with the CREST team and University of Chester Academics. All the support provided to business is free of charge.
Dr Powell-Turner says she hopes the project will have become self-funding by the end of its initial two-year term, and be working with a wide array of local businesses and research institutions.
She said: “I’m very excited to be here in Shropshire; a county where our work can bring about real business, academic and community benefits. I am keen to get around and visit as many local businesses, schools and community organisations as possible over the coming months.
“Ultimately, our aim is to become a niche and specialised academic centre which can help inform business policy and community-related decisions for the benefit of Shropshire – and the wider environment.
“We don’t want to be a jack of all trades – that’s not what we have been created for. It may be, following Brexit, that businesses need to look at a slightly different audience and target new markets. We can help companies with this long-term environmental planning.”
Dr Powell-Turner has joined CREST from Cranfield University at the Defence Academy of the UK, Shrivenham, where she was head of research, and a senior lecturer in sustainable supply chains.
She has also worked for UKAEA at Harwell/Culham in the international policy team, on wide-ranging projects in Asia, Africa and Europe, and has extensive experience of working in China and Mongolia.
She is a visiting professor at the Military Economics Academy in Wuhan, China, a visiting professor at Hindustan University, Chennai, a visiting lecturer and PhD supervisor at Cranfield University (Defence and Security), and director of sustainability of Frith Resource Management in Bridgnorth.
“The aim of the team here is to foster research within CREST, and use this to inform future strategic environmental insight in Shropshire, as well as directing and informing our teaching.
“We are already developing fruitful business and community links, and exploring how we can diversify income streams for the benefit of CREST, the University Centre, and the wider Shropshire population.
“Longer term, we’re also looking at introducing post graduate degrees on a part time basis, which would be delivered in close collaboration with local businesses, and CPD offerings, approved and accredited by professional institutions.”
CREST, which is run in partnership with the University of Chester and University Centre Reaseheath, offers access to academic experts, and a state-of-the-art laboratory at the Guildhall teaching and research base on Frankwell Quay, as well as the chance to involve students in research projects.
It also has a series of themed innovation workshops and masterclasses planned over the coming months, with a focus on areas such as groundwater, flooding and hydrology, contaminated land, bio fuels and energy, bioscience, and wastes management.
Dr Powell-Turner added: “The vast majority of businesses in Shropshire are SMEs, many at the micro end of the scale, who simply do not have the structures or resources to fund specialist research. There is much we can do to help.
“But we also need to work with larger companies and organisations which do have the resources to potentially help fund our work, going forward, on projects which ensure we can all prosper.”
A key focus of the CREST centre is also to contribute to the Government’s Clean Growth Strategy, with a focus on growing the economy while cutting carbon emissions, and the 25-year Environmental Plan which sets out what we will do to improve the environment.