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The University of Southampton
Institute for Life Sciences

Southampton student awarded £80,000 to prevent hospital superbugs

Published: 5 October 2016
Fergus Watson
Fergus Watson

University of Southampton student Fergus Watson is to receive an Industrial Fellowship, worth £80,000, from The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 to fund his research that could eradicate hospital superbugs.

Fergus is one of ten of the UK’s most promising young doctoral engineers and scientists to receive a Fellowship to help fund their projects and bring their technologies to fruition. The Commission, originally founded by Prince Albert to organise the Great Exhibition of 1851 and then use its profits to further British industry, has recognised the projects for their potential to impact health, environment and business.

Fergus, a Postgraduate Research Student in Microbiology, is working with Bioquell UK Ltd to eliminate biofilms, which are thought to be one of the main causes of hospital superbugs and multi-drug resistant infections.

Fergus will look to use Bioquell’s hydrogen peroxide vapour (HPV) technology to eliminate the biofilm threat, while comparing its effectiveness to hospital disinfectants. He will look at ways this research can influence hospital procedure by highlighting weak spots in cleaning practices and potential risk zones.

Fergus said: “The Fellowship has given me this fantastic opportunity to advance my academic career alongside my professional career. I have always wanted to continue my studies into a PhD research project and this industrial fellowship has allowed me to pursue this. I am keen to combine the wealth of knowledge and resource from the University of Southampton and the wealth of industrial experience from Bioquell to excel in this area of research; and I am enjoying being back in the student environment.”

Chemistry graduate Tom Fleming, who is now an EPSRC funded chemistry DPhil student at the University of Oxford, also received an Industrial Fellowship to support his research into new anti-cancer drugs that can combat chemoresistance.

The Industrial Fellowships provide recent graduates with the means to develop innovative technology with commercial potential, ideally leading to a patent, while completing a PhD or EngD. Each Fellow receives up to £80,000 worth of funding over three years for their work, to be carried out in collaboration with an academic institution and a business partner.

Applications for the 2017 Industrial Fellowships are now open. To learn more visit the website here.


Notes for editors

1. The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 offers major awards to scientists and engineers for research, development and design. First established to stage the Great Exhibition in 1851, the Royal Commission's extraordinary history is founded on an inspired vision of the importance of education to economic success. It has previously funded luminaries such as Nobel laureates Professor Peter Higgs, Sir James Chadwick and Paul Dirac. 

Awarded to the most promising science and engineering graduates annually, the Industrial Fellowships form a crucial part of the Commission’s work, with the specific aim of encouraging profitable innovation in British industry.

Each three-year Fellowship is worth up to £80,000 and those awarded must work to develop a patented and profitable technology, while completing a PhD or EngD.

2. The Industrial Fellowships are an integral part of the Commission’s work, with the specific aim of encouraging the commercialisation of new British technologies. The programme plays a crucial role in facilitating collaboration between universities and industry, offering much sought after research and development funding for new intellectual property. It also enables promising scientists and engineers to conduct research whilst gaining industrial experience. This year the Commission has also established a new programme of Enterprise Fellowships, in partnership with the Royal Academy of Engineering, which were awarded at the same time.

3. The Royal Academy of Engineering:  As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering.

We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK’s role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK’s world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook.

Further information can be found here:

4. Through world-leading research and enterprise activities, the University of Southampton connects with businesses to create real-world solutions to global issues. Through its educational offering, it works with partners around the world to offer relevant, flexible education, which trains students for jobs not even thought of. This connectivity is what sets Southampton apart from the rest; we make connections and change the world.


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