KTP case study

Optimising design and improving sales for vector fields.

About this case study

Vector Fields is a leading provider of computer software for electromagnetic design. This Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with the University of Southampton aimed to improve the electromagnetic design process through implementation of state-of-the-art optimisation techniques.

About the sponsor

The Technology Strategy Board is a business-led organisation established by the Government. Its mission is to accelerate research into, and development and exploitation of, technology and innovation for the benefit of UK business - building economic growth and quality of life.

The Company

Vector Fields' Opera analysis software suite is used globally for modelling electromagnetic applications, with exports accounting for about 75% of turnover. The system is used in a wide range of applications including electrical machines, power systems devices, medical devices such as MRI and X-ray tubes, and magnets for high energy particle accelerators.

The project

With ever-increasing computing resources, the software's capabilities are always being stretched. An optimisation facility was considered vital to improving the user’s design process, by automating the virtual prototyping of an application to meet specific requirements. The KTP was set up to address this need for optimisation.

The project produced two new facilities to the software:

The Associate

Glenn Hawe had completed an MPhys in Maths and Physics at the University of Warwick before working on this project with Vector Fields.

During the project, Glenn gained valuable industrial experience, as well as the opportunity to put theory into practice. The optimiser he developed was included in the version of the software that was released at the end of the KTP, and played a deciding role in some early sales.

As well as presenting papers at six international conferences, Glenn was invited to chair a session at a conference in the US and to give an introductory lecture on surrogate-modelling techniques. He also won the award for ‘Best paper by a young researcher’ at the CEM conference. During the KTP he started work on a PhD, which he completed within four months of the end of the partnership.

The Academic partner

The lead academic on this KTP was Professor Jan Sykulski of the University of Southampton’s internationally renowned School of Electronics and Computer Science.

This KTP has facilitated further collaboration between Vector Fields and the University, which has been ongoing since the mid-1980s. As a result, a new KTP is in preparation, and a research proposal has recently been submitted by Jan Sykulski in which Vector Fields is a collaborating partner.

Glenn's PhD registration, together with four journals and seven conference joint papers, made a direct contribution to the University's research output. The project has also assisted the Jan Sykulski in planning and directing future research in this cutting edge field.

Key facts

"The problem which the KTP addressed was an active research area, and so it was very rewarding to have the work I carried out count towards a PhD. It was great to have the support of experts from both academia and industry."

Glenn Hawe, KTP Associate

"The KTP with the University of Southampton addressed a major gap in our product line. It has created a novel, exciting product with excellent market potential, using state of the art optimisation methods that are not available in other commercial systems."

John Simkin, Technical Director, Vector Fields

"I am delighted to have been involved in this KTP with Vector Fields. The outcomes are an excellent personal achievement for Glenn and also demonstrate that the KTP scheme may contain significant elements of leading edge research."

Professor Jan Sykulski, University of Southampton