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£1.5 million grant for Centre for Electronic Imaging collaboration

The Universe - with swirls of brown, yellow and green colours

The Open University (OU) has received funding in excess of £1.5 million from Teledyne e2v for phase five of a collaboration agreement that sponsors blue skies OU research in advanced detector technology for space imaging.

The Centre for Electronic Imaging (CEI) is dedicated to the research and development of advanced technologies for electronic image sensing and provides knowledge exchange between the UK technology industry and academia. The main focus of the CEI's work relates to the development of imaging sensors for space applications, with expertise in X-ray, Visible, UV and Infra-Red, alongside the study of the effects of radiation damage.

The CEI started in 2004 at Brunel University before moving to the OU in 2008. The collaboration agreement works in five-year phases, and this is the fifth phase of the collaboration with Teledyne e2v. The sponsorship funding facilitates a wide range of early-stage technology development and research into scientific image sensors, PhD student training, knowledge exchange between industry and university research, and exploiting sensor opportunities in space instrumentation.

This collaboration between the CEI and Teledyne e2v is an exemplar for collaboration between industry and academia, developing and commercialising technologies of the future. Most critically, it also leads to many large additional projects that CEI undertakes with the company supported by further funding from UK Space Agency (UKSA), European Space Agency (ESA) and other sources at a level of approximately £1.5 to £2M per year.

In previous years, the sponsorships have focussed on developing CCD (Charge-Coupled Device) detectors, but the research focus is now looking more towards CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) devices that can be utilised for space imaging applications. This has led to OU involvement with major space missions and the resulting high-profile science papers. Some examples of space missions that the OU have previously been involved with through the CEI collaboration include ESA’s (European Space Agency) JUICE mission which will provide detailed observations of Jupiter and its three large ocean-bearing moons, ESA's Gaia mission, and the recently launched Euclid mission. On-going projects include work towards the SMILE mission (joint ESA and Chinese Academy of Sciences) due for launch 2025 and ESA Athena X-ray space telescope for launch in the 2030s.

Most recently, several major new technology programmes have been funded to develop sensors for a range of potential new missions including CASTOR (Canadian Space Agency), future ISRO (the Indian Space Research Organisation) missions, and ESA s’ Theseus mission proposal. As well as focussing on space mission applications, the CEI also looks at other applications for the imaging technologies being developed such as terrestrial satellite applications and medical imaging.

This collaborative research aligns with The Open University’s current research strategy by building on our strengths in space research and encouraging innovation through knowledge exchange. It also aligns with the University’s Open Societal Challenges programme by furthering technological advancements that can be used for societal benefits such as medical applications that will aid living well.

David Hall, Senior Lecturer in Physical Sciences and CEI Director, said “This collaboration is an excellent example of how the OU is able to understand industry problems and to apply our knowledge and research to work with the company in finding solutions. The Centre for Electronic Imaging has a great agreement with Teledyne e2v and previous agreements with them and others have yielded strong REF impact case studies, with demonstrable outcomes such as new technologies and their real-world impacts. This impact will continue to build and strengthen through development of new detector technologies. This year also marks 20 years of the Centre for Electronic Imaging, and we plan to celebrate two decades of effective collaboration and highlight the excellent outputs and developments that have resulted from this in September [2024]”.

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