Our sector-focused Themes provide a unique line management structure which enables better delivery of transdisciplinary research. Each Theme has a research strategy to support an individual’s academic freedom to pursue fundamental and applied research topics.


Defence and Security
Energy and Sustainability
Environment and Agrifood
School of Management
Manufacturing and Materials
Transport Systems


The Aerospace Theme’s research strategy uses aeronautical, control, mechanical and systems engineering together with design, mathematics and materials science principles to address the '4 As' – defining and delivering future aircraft, future airspace management, future airports and future airlines. Research addresses aeronautics, autonomous air vehicles, advanced propulsion and integration of air vehicle design, assembly and performance.

The Aerospace Theme’s research strategy centres on the '4 As' – defining and delivering future aircraft, future airspace management, future airports and future airlines.

  • Aerodynamics and systems engineering principles are used to explore novel aircraft configurations and rethink air vehicle design. Materials science, fuels technology and thermodynamics are applied to establish advanced propulsion concepts towards zero carbon.
  • New artificial intelligence model relationships between virtual and physical systems are applied to design optimisation processes and advanced airspace management systems for manned and unmanned air vehicles (UAVs).
  • Advanced robotics, intelligent automation and mechatronic concepts are being used for novel assembly solutions for aircraft, UAVs and space robotics missions.
  • Applied mathematics, computational and software engineering techniques are used to develop underlying algorithms to support applied computational fluid dynamics, to digital wind tunnels, operation Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLoS) and automatic flight control systems for UAVs.

Defence and Security

The Defence and Security Theme research strategy is based on the application of a wide range of multidisciplinary research based on human, engineering, computer and physical sciences. These disciplines are applied to a wide range of research activity including cyber-security, ‘defence’ chemistry, electronic warfare, energetics, forensics, leadership, modelling and simulation, systems engineering, security, terrorism, and public safety focused on providing timely solutions to military and national security issues.

  • Chemistry, materials science and engineering sciences are applied to explosives safety and manufacture, blast survivability of structures and lethality.
  • Fundamental imaging science techniques to undertake forensic analysis, chemical analysis and electromechanical analysis (with applications to material analysis and failure modes, materials structure, control and guidance, sensors analysis, simulation and modelling).
  • Applied mathematics, and computer science and modelling skills are combined with mechanical engineering and social sciences to investigate and develop cutting edge methods and tools for analysing complex military and security problems.
  • The application of psychological, anthropological and computational techniques being applied to civilian, security and military situations.

Energy and Sustainability

The Energy and Sustainability Theme research strategy centres on electrical, chemical and mechanical engineering disciplines applied in combination with data and materials sciences to develop the next generation of energy technologies and facilitate global energy access. Our research addresses climate and environmental protection, energy systems, energy policy and strategy, offshore energy, renewables, alternative fuels, thermal energy systems and energy materials.

The Energy and Sustainability Theme research strategy spans widely across the energy sectors future needs.

  • Fundamental electrical power and controls engineering along with digital and data science and social sciences are used to answer questions of how much energy is needed, where, how to move energy around distribution systems, and how to enable the energy transition to net zero.
  • Mechanical engineering and materials science is applied to enable a step change in thermal power generation operating efficiency through raising process temperatures and using alternative operating fluids.
  • Computational fluid dynamics, hydrodynamics, thermodynamics, materials, corrosion, mechanical and structural dynamics knowledge is used to research heat exchanging methods, waste heat recovery and industrial and domestic heat networks.
  • Physics, materials science and electrical, chemical and mechanical engineering are applied to the next generation of renewable technologies, including concentrating solar power, geothermal, wind, wave and tidal marine energy devices.
  • Chemical and process engineering, biological sciences and materials science knowledge is applied to enable carbon capture, development and production of alternative fuels from biological processes and waste sources, as well as hydrogen production.

Environment and Agrifood

The Environment and Agrifood Theme applies biological, environmental and physical sciences, in combination with data and informatics, to the atmosphere, plants and soils to understand the use of natural and agricultural capital for the benefit of society. Research addresses soil pedometrics and sustainability, food crop safety and quality, ecosystems services, environmental analytics and atmospheric sciences.

The Environment and Agrifood Theme covers plant sciences, soil science and atmospheric chemistry with informatics to understand the use of natural and agricultural capital for the benefit of society.

  • Physical, chemical and biological sciences underpin soil-crop systems research and the interaction between plants and microbes in the rhizosphere. These scientific disciplines are applied to soil science research along with digital sciences.
  • Biological sciences, including biochemistry, bioinformatics and molecular genetics, are used in research on food quality and safety, along with reduction of food waste.
  • Novel digital techniques, instrumentation and informatics techniques are used to gain new insights in addressing complex environmental and agricultural challenges.
  • Environmental sciences, geography and economics underpin complex systems approaches and foresight techniques to address the re-greening opportunities of society post transformational/disruptive change.
  • Atmospheric sciences Decision sciences - development of approaches to quantify environmental hazards and impact of environmental change in planning for and managing vulnerability, risk and resilience pertaining to the natural and built environment.

School of Management

The School of Management uses economic, management, psychology and social sciences to deliver ‘knowledge into action’ for business and government organisations using relevant and unique management tools. Research addresses organisational resilience, the green economy, human resources, logistics and supply chain management, and leadership.

The School of Management has a strong emphasis on 'knowledge into action' where we develop and employ relevant and unique management frameworks and tools to advance knowledge.

  • Strategic management and performance measurement tools are applied to businesses to transform their strategies and improve productivity in public sector organisations.
  • Organisational change and leadership, entrepreneurship, finance and supply chains are used to advance our understanding of the role and importance of managing and mitigating organisational resilience.
  • Strategic leadership and human resource management principles have informed managerial and policy agenda research in relation to gender leadership and to solve wider organisational problems in a multi-disciplinary approach.
  • Human resource management, logistics and marketing are brought together to examine the impacts of digital transformation within business settings.
  • Supply chain management research employs modelling, simulation and optimisation techniques in relation to sustainable operations and reduced operational complexity for both public and private organisations.
  • Economics and financial management provides theoretical context to sustainable business behaviour, with global applications to advancements in numerous management functions and business operations.

Manufacturing and Materials

The Manufacturing and Materials Theme research strategy is based upon mechanical, control and production engineering underpinned by materials science, physics, and data sciences to enhance the efficiency of operations (smart), processes (clean) and resources (green). Research addresses composites, surface engineering including high temperature materials, sustainable manufacturing and through-life services, and welding and laser processing.

The Manufacturing and Materials Theme research strategy is based upon enhancing the efficiency of operations (smart), processes (clean) and resources (green).

  • Manufacturing process engineering along with applied mathematics and simulation and material science is applied to investigating models for the “eco-factory” based on the principals of the circular economy.
  • Materials science, novel sensor technologies and engineering modelling are applied to materials production with low carbon footprint for light-weight, high performance automotive, marine, aerospace and space structures.
  • Monitoring and control engineering principles, data sciences and physical science based sensor technologies are used to understand factory management, product service systems and eco-efficiency. Computer sciences along with electrical and electronic engineering informs research in the internet of things for traceability and authenticity, intelligent micro-factories and autonomous manufacturing systems.
  • Mechanical and production engineering, along with laser physics and material science disciplines support research into process automation for both additive manufacture and welding.

Transport Systems

The Transport Systems Theme research strategy applies electronic, mechanical and systems engineering together with applied mathematics, computer sciences, physics and psychology to the design and operation of air and ground-based transport.

The Transport Systems Theme research strategy takes an interdisciplinary approach to air and ground-based mobility.

  • Knowledge of mechanical and electronic engineering is used to develop novel control systems to improve vehicle dynamics and unlock opportunities for connected and autonomous vehicles. Electrochemistry combined with control engineering principles is applied to battery management techniques to maximise the efficiency and safety of their use in transport.
  • Psychology and physiology combined with systems engineering is applied to better understand the interaction between design and operators of vehicles and transport systems. A systems engineering approach informs the development of tools and techniques to manage safety-critical systems across transport modes.
  • Aerodynamics and the physics of optical sensors is used to develop novel techniques to evaluate structural health of aircraft.
  • Computer sciences and applied mathematics is applied to artificial intelligence and machine learning to unlock the potential of digital aviation in delivering safe, sustainable and efficient air transport.


The Water Theme deploys chemical and civil engineering with biological, physical and social sciences disciplines to improve understanding of fundamental processes applied to the management of water in natural and engineered systems.

The Water Theme deploys a range of scientific disciplines to improve understanding of fundamental processes as they relate to the management of water in the natural and engineered water cycles.

  • Fundamental chemical engineering principles combined with insights from chemistry, biology, physics, and surface science are used to identify new approaches to water treatment and develop nutrient removal and resource recovery processes.
  • The boundaries of knowledge in sensors is being extended by melding expertise in water chemistry and microbiology with skills in device engineering and microfluidics.
  • Using integrated mathematical modelling approaches allied to irrigation engineering the understanding of the dynamics of drought vulnerability and the impact of drought on communities is advanced.
  • Insights from the social sciences occasion important contributions on water governance and the transformation of water and sanitation services for the world’s poorest communities. This underpins paths to maturity for achievable and financially-credible solutions which improve the resilience and sustainability of water services, such as water reuse, nature based systems, and decentralised supply.
  • Design methods, rapid prototyping, mechatronics, business modelling, data analytics, and materials testing are used for circular economy, materials and data driven innovation to deliver interdisciplinary solutions to challenge-led problems.