Research and Innovation

Helping to solve the world's most pressing problems

Through our game-changing research and academic strength, we’re developing innovative solutions to combat the most prevalent challenges we face as a society – here and around the world. 

We're applying our valuable research to build a stronger, safer, and more sustainable future for everyone by focusing on the issues that matter today, such as low carbon alternatives, data security and cultural equality. Through our research we are creating a much brighter future for all generations.

Our expertise spans across a range of research fields and we specialise in six key areas known as our academic themes:

Our students receive an education that is grounded in excellence and innovation, with teaching and learning underpinned by industry  connections.

Wind tunnel technology at the University's Markeaton Street site
icon£5.8m capital funding to develop Biomedical Science Super LabAwarded by the Office for Students
icon£350,000 awarded for project on chronic liver disease
icon£101,000 secured from Innovate UK’s Energy Catalyst programme

Biomedical and Clinical Science

Improving the quality of life for people with long Covid

Researchers at the University have launched a study in a bid to develop support strategies for people with long Covid.

The team of scientists, led by Dr Mark Faghy, is exploring the causes of Post Exertional Malaise (PEM) or Post Exertional Symptom Exacerbation (PESE) in people living with long Covid – which are terms used to describe the worsening of symptoms after physical or mental exertion, even at minor levels.

People with long Covid are being recruited to take part in the study, which involves medical and research partners in the UK and overseas and is funded by Gilead Sciences.

Dr Faghy, Associate Professor in Respiratory Physiology, said: “From this study, we are hoping to shed light on the issues that lead to a worsening of symptoms and this information will help us better understand how we can support patients who have been plagued by PESE/PEM for years.”

Managing chronic liver disease

A project team involving academics at the University was awarded £350,000 of funding by Innovate UK to develop a targeted drug delivery system, which has the potential to prevent and treat chronic liver disease.

Dr Ali Kermanizadeh, Lecturer in Clinical Biochemistry and Toxicology at the University, is working with Cell Guidance Systems in Cambridge to develop the system, which will allow RNA drugs to better cross the cell wall of the liver.

He said: “At present there are no approved therapies to manage the condition, and there is an urgent need to develop safe treatments that can reduce inflammation and prevent disease progression. We hope that this new approach could have long-term benefits for the management of chronic liver conditions and in time help improve the quality of life of many people globally.”

Funding for a new science super lab

A new Biomedical Science Super Lab is set to open at the University in 2025.

The University was awarded £5.8m of capital funding from the Office for Students towards the lab, which is set to be an innovative, inspiring and interdisciplinary teaching facility focusing on core elements of Biomedical Science including haematology, immunology, histopathology, molecular biology, genetics and cell/tissue culture.

Professor Kathryn Mitchell CBE DL, Vice-Chancellor of the University, said: “The new Super Lab aligns with the University’s Strategic Framework by ensuring our students develop the skills employers require, thereby enhancing graduate employability and contributing to the economic growth of our region and the wider skills agenda. Biomedical Science is one of the University’s six key academic themes, so this funding will enable us to further develop and grow in this area.”

Business, Economic and Social Policy

Top 200 Businesses in Derbyshire research

Academics from the University’s Derby Business School compiled a report into the Top 200 Businesses in Derbyshire again this year.

The report was compiled by a team of researchers using publicly available information and highlighted the impact of Covid-19 on local businesses. It was launched at an event at the University’s One Friar Gate Square in June.

Toyota Manufacturing UK topped the list again this year with a turnover of £2.11 billion.

Read the Top 200 Businesses in Derby and Derbyshire report.

Creative and Cultural Industries

Visualising a future Derby

The DUST Project – Derby’s Urban Sustainable Transition – is using cutting-edge technology to deliver innovative digital visualisations of a future-Derby.

The project, supported through the Osborne Legacy Fund, integrates VR technologies to provide immersive experiences, allowing people to explore what Derby could look like in the future.

In September 2022, the research team launched a three-week showcase, presenting digital models of sustainable urban scenarios for the city. Utilising VR platforms, the team engaged the local community, potential investors, and external stakeholders in participatory dialogues, gathering valuable insights and advancing a shared vision for a liveable and prosperous city.

Earlier this year, the team presented a research paper at the HCI (International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction) in Copenhagen. The paper explored the design intricacies of the 3D Derby model, exploring the synergy of AI and VR technologies in supporting co-creation in urban design.

As well as advancements in the technology of the DUST platform and engagement from stakeholders, student engagement has also been a focal point over the past academic year, with six students participating in the On-Campus Internship Scheme, contributing to various tasks within the DUST model.

An elevated perspective of the Derwent Wharf, a nature-based urban revitalisation concept, created in collaboration with Derby & Sandiacre Canal and Down to Earth
An elevated perspective of the Derwent Wharf, a nature-based urban revitalisation concept, created in collaboration with Derby & Sandiacre Canal and Down to Earth

Data Science

Knowledge exchange success

Dr Christopher Windmill, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, and Patrick Merritt, Postgraduate Research Student, secured a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with QSS to adapt gaming technology and techniques to create an innovative, immersive and engaging platform to deliver remote business consultancy services.

Associate Professor in Artificial Intelligence, Dr Wajahat Khan and Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, Dr Maqbool Hussain secured a KTP with AddQual to build on the existing partnership and develop technologies to further streamline manufacturing processes.

A multidisciplinary team including Professor Myra Conway, Associate Provost – Innovation and Research, Dr Amar Bousbaine, Reader in Power Electronics, and Professor Farid Meziane, have secured a KTP with Acme Pharma Ltd to develop and manufacture an innovative non-invasive continuous blood glucose and blood cholesterol monitoring system, integrating lifestyle adaptation via artificial intelligence.

Memorandum of Understanding

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the University – represented by Professor Keith McLay, Provost - Learning & Teaching, and Dr Tola Adesina, Associate Provost - Global Engagement, and Oakland University – represented by Professor Vijayan Sugumaran, Co-Director of the Center for Data Science and Big Data Analytics. Initially, the MoU will cover activities in the Data Science and Computer Science areas in research and innovation and then include teaching and learning.

Public Services

Hospital training facility used by students receives Royal visit

An innovative training ward used by University health students as part of their learning was visited by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal.

The simulation facility, based at the University’s Chesterfield site, features a number of hospital beds, artificial patients and NHS-standard equipment, and was renamed the Florence Nightingale Ward in honour of the founder of modern nursing.

The new name was unveiled with a plaque by HRH at a special event at the site, in which the Princess Royal received a tour of the building and witnessed some of the equipment used by students as part of their training.

Dr Denise Baker, Pro Vice-Chancellor Dean of the College of Health, Psychology and Social Care at the University, who was among those at the event, said: “At the University, we prepare our students to make a difference to society and our first-class facilities mean students gain the skills to provide exceptional levels of care. We were delighted to showcase this to HRH The Princess Royal and for her to meet with our inspiring staff and students.”

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal visited the University of Derby's Chesterfield Campus and met with health students
Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal met with health students at the University's Chesterfield Campus

Zero Carbon

Funding awarded for pioneering clean energy project

Researchers at the University successfully secured £101,000 from Innovate UK’s Energy Catalyst programme, which is being used to develop a clean energy system that could help reduce premature deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Zaharaddeen Hussaini, Researcher in Concentrated Solar Power, is leading the project to create a hybrid energy generator and storage system for use in rural parts of Ghana and Nigeria.

The system has the potential to save lives in areas with no access to grid energy – reliance on open fire cooking leads to indoor pollution that currently contributes to over 500,000 premature deaths each year in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dr Hussaini said: “The lack of access to grid energy in these regions forces residents to rely on traditional open-fire cooking methods, leading to indoor pollution that contributes to over 500,000 premature deaths each year in sub-Saharan Africa. By providing a sustainable alternative, this innovative system has the potential to not only save lives but also bring electricity to communities that have long been disconnected from the grid.”

A person in a laboratory
Dr Zaharaddeen Hussaini

Raising awareness of biodiversity loss

A visual representation of changes in biodiversity over time has been developed by a Derby Professor.

The ‘biodiversity stripes’ show the fall in biodiversity globally, across continents and in the UK. Globally, there has been an average drop of 69% in the population of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles since 1970.

Earlier this year, a new biodiversity stripes website was launched in order to help raise awareness of the decline in wildlife.

Professor Miles Richardson, Professor of Human Factors and Nature Connectedness, who created the stripes after being inspired by the University of Reading’s climate stripes, said: “The stripes provide a simple representation of the change in biodiversity over time, they show how our green world is becoming grey and this is something everyone needs to engage with.”

The biodiversity stripes have previously been showcased as part of the global Nature Positive Campaign, led by Nature4Climate and appeared at COP27 and COP15.

Image shows gradation of colour from green to grey to represent biodiversity loss in stripes
Biodiversity loss 69%. Image shows global diversity from 1970 - 2018. Image from Information from Living Planet Index database.

Partnering for impact

Nuclear Skills Academy

In September 2022, the new Nuclear Skills Academy – developed by Rolls-Royce Submarines Ltd, the University of Derby and other partners, opened its doors to 200 apprentices.

The first of its kind and developed at pace, the Derby based Academy aims to sustain nuclear capability within the UK’s submarines programme by creating a dedicated pipeline of talent.

In February, the launch of the Academy was celebrated at an event in the House of Lords, with more than 150 representatives from the Houses of Lords, Commons and industry in attendance. In July, the Shadow Minister for Skills and Further Education, Toby Perkins MP, visited the Nuclear Skills Academy and met with apprentices currently enrolled. He also participated in a roundtable discussion with representatives from the University, Rolls-Royce and University Alliance – of which the University is a member – on plans for building the UK’s future workforce.

In recognition of the strong partnership between the University and Rolls-Royce Submarines, and the nationally acclaimed excellence of the Nuclear Skills Academy, the organisations were presented with the Employer & Training Provider Partnership Award at the UK Nuclear Skills Awards 2023. 

Nuclear Skills Academy front of the building from a distance
Nuclear Skills Academy