Case study: Professor Xiang Zhang

"The title ‘Industry Fellow’ is very helpful for me, as it shows the people I work with and the companies I serve that although I am associated with the Royal Society, I also care about industry, not just academia."
Awarded: 2012 – 2016, Employer: Lucideon, Host: University of Cambridge

Xiang is head of medical materials and devices and principal consultant at Lucideon, a materials consultancy company based in Stoke on Trent. "My role is to set the business and scientific direction for a company. Just as humans need doctors when they are suffering from health problems, so do companies when they have problems with their materials."

Before joining the company in 2010, Xiang was a director at Cambridge NanoTech, a principal scientist at Abbott Laboratories and held an industry fellowship at the University of Cambridge.

Xiang develops new biomaterials, such as bone-mimics for transplants, by studying their structure-property relationships down to the nanometre scale. "Scientific challenges often come from industry, not from me, and we provide solutions to them. The potential for our work is dictated by the market, so it is important that I set the right direction and establish the market lead."

Xiang’s motivation for doing an Industry Fellowship, awarded in 2012 and hosted by the University of Cambridge, was to see if research and development could be joined more effectively from an industry perspective. "How can we make science for industry work in the shortest time with the least cost, and why do we always do research first then development later? I wanted to try combining the two together myself, which has worked well in major EU projects with ReBioStent and HyMedPoly."

With funding from Lucideon and the EU, Xiang has set up an industrial PhD project that will continue beyond his Industry Fellowship. "If a high-tech company like Lucideon doesn’t engage with the most advanced research then it loses its market position in light of science and technology development. If I am not at the forefront of my field, how can I serve companies to the highest standard?"

Xiang’s proudest achievement from the Industry Fellowship was that he was able to realise his vision of combining research and development more efficiently. He wrote three books during his time, alongside the completion of several projects with research funding over £15 million.