Case study: Professor Julie Macpherson

"Having developed my collaboration with Element Six for several years, the Industry Fellowship was a natural progression - it allowed me to properly explore a space that I thought had significant potential."
Awarded: 2014 – 2018, Employer: University of Warwick, Host: Element Six

Julie, a Professor of electrochemistry at the University of Warwick, develops electrochemical sensors. “Boron doped diamond is an interesting material to work with as it has extreme properties – it can sense in environments for periods of time that other sensors wouldn’t last or work in”. Julie was awarded an Industry Fellowship in 2014, working with Element Six, the world leaders in synthetic diamond production. Through the Fellowship, she is developing materials for state of the art sensors that have a variety of applications, such as more robust and universally accurate pH detectors.

“Together with Element Six we figure out how to grow designer diamond materials, and through my Industry Fellowship, I’ve had the time and freedom to go out and talk to end users of the different proposed sensor technologies”. For Julie, it’s the perfect partnership - one in which Element Six provide the infrastructure and resources and her team identify the applications. 

Julie’s collaboration with Element Six goes back to 2006. “After a student research project that sparked Element Six’s interested, they took the decision to invest in us to develop electroanalysis grade diamond materials. Out of that partnership came my understanding of what this material could do for us in the sensing arena and that’s when I applied for the Industry Fellowship.”

Julie’s association with the Royal Society is long-standing. “I started my academic career back in 1999 with a University Research Fellowship, working more on fundamental concepts, at the end of this eight year period I was promoted to Chair by my host Department. After this, I started to focus on the more applied applications of my work and the Industry Fellowship, awarded in 2014, has been instrumental in giving me the time to exploit the wide range of possible opportunities”.

The scheme exceeded Julie’s expectations of what she thought she’d achieve, including further funding from the Royal Society, Innovate UK and associated end users, to progress her sensor technology, as well as establishing contacts with new companies.    

Ultimately, Julie appreciates the flexibility of her Industry Fellowship. “Everybody I know on the scheme has their own take on it and uses it in a slightly different way to achieve the maximum benefit - that’s one of the many appealing features of the scheme.”