Academies extend support for interdisciplinary research with the help of the Leverhulme Trust

25 June 2019

The APEX Awards, delivered jointly by the British Academy, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society, have received a generous boost in funding from the Leverhulme Trust. These awards support interdisciplinary and curiosity-driven research that benefits the wider society with the funding now extended for a further five years.

A new round of funding will launch in October 2019 and provide up to £100,000 for established independent researchers to collaborate with partners from different disciplines, across the sciences, engineering, social sciences and humanities.

Awardees will also have the opportunity to apply for an additional £10,000 towards public engagement activities, enhancing their ability to involve the public in their work.

The objectives of the APEX Awards are to:

  • support outstanding interdisciplinary research which is unlikely to be supported through conventional funding programmes
  • promote collaboration across disciplines, with a particular emphasis on the boundary between science and engineering and the social sciences and humanities
  • support researchers with an outstanding track record, in developing their research in a new direction through collaboration with partners from other disciplines
  • enable outstanding researchers to focus on advancing their innovative research through seed funding

Since launching in 2017, the APEX Awards have funded 14 interdisciplinary research projects across the UK. Researchers supported through this award are able to address complex challenges by investigating problems through different perspectives.

Professor Robert Field at the University of Oxford is researching the politics and public reaction to using treated wastewater for human consumption in parts of the world currently facing water shortages. Implementing this new method of treating wastewater not only has the potential to readjust imbalances in water availability but it also has a reduced carbon footprint and capital cost compared to other water treatment methods.

Professor Kate Robson Brown at the University of Bristol is investigating the potential to manufacture materials which can adapt in response to stress in the same way in which human bones grow and strengthen over time. Findings from this research are being used in a pilot study with the NASA Ames Research Centre to deploy a structure which can be both manufactured and deployed in space.

Dr David Horsell at the University of Exeter is researching the structural properties of bumble bee hair and its potential applications as a metamaterial for building materials and electronics. The unique fern-like branching structure of bumble bee hair is thought to be able to actively control the bee’s body temperature depending on surrounding conditions. This same process could be harnessed to reduce energy wastage in various man-made materials.

Professor Stuart Murray, an APEX Award holder at the University of Leeds, said:

"Our APEX award has given us time and space to ask far-reaching research questions. It provided a unique opportunity to explore foundational topics that are too often neglected. It has been invaluable in allowing us to develop our project to become larger, more enquiring and more inclusive.

"I have held a number of grants during my career, but I can say with hand on heart that this APEX Award has been one of the most exciting and productive.”

Further details about the next round of APEX Awards will be announced soon and full scheme notes will be available when the scheme opens in October. For further information please contact