Institute celebrates major societal role

“It’s amazing how far we’ve come in putting fluid dynamics on the map and emphasising its importance for the economy and society.”

Professors Hai-Sui Yu, Cath Noakes and Steven Tobias deep in conversation during the event

Institute celebrates major societal role. February 2024

High-profile guests helped celebrate the Leeds Institute for Fluid Dynamics’ (LIFD) fifth anniversary, highlighting how this field of research is helping develop fundamental solutions to some of the greatest global challenges.

More than 150 people attended a recent two-day event on campus, which featured keynote speakers including theoretical physicist Sir Steven Cowley, pioneering mechanical engineer Professor Dame Ann Dowling and Met Office Chief Scientist Professor Stephen Belcher, alongside a host of LIFD’s leading academics.

Attendees were joined by many of the University’s senior leaders, including Interim Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Hai-Sui Yu, Chancellor Professor Dame Jane Francis and Professor Nick Plant, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation. They heard about how fluid dynamics can help solve the major societal issues of our time, including climate change, Net Zero ambitions, clean air and public health.

Professor Steven Tobias, LIFD Director, said: “It was a great pleasure to welcome so many colleagues from Leeds, the UK and abroad to celebrate LIFD’s fifth birthday. Looking back, it’s amazing how far we’ve come in putting fluid dynamics on the map and emphasising its importance for the economy and society.

“Leeds and the UK has a massive strength in fluids research, teaching and outreach, which is sometimes taken for granted, so it was a real pleasure to showcase and celebrate it with colleagues, funders, policymakers and end users.

“The talks and demonstrations were of such a high quality, both from the world-leading scientists who gave our invited talks and those early career researchers at the cutting edge. With the right support, the future of fluids is in great hands. I’m looking forward to the next five years!” 

Institute celebrates major societal role. February 2024

Sir Steven Cowley addressing the LIFD event

Major scientific advances

Fluid dynamics contribute significantly to British and international industry. It’s also an area that will see major scientific advances in the next decade – one that LIFD hopes to lead on a national level.

By 2021, fluid dynamics were estimated to generate £13.9 billion through more than 2,200 firms, which were responsible for employing 45,000 people. UK firms engaged in fluid dynamics had a turnover of £200 billion, while the gross value it added to the economy was estimated to be £3.4 billion. These figures continue to grow each year, in part thanks to advocacy by organisations such as LIFD.

Since its initial formation in 2018, LIFD has won a strong international reputation for its research, training and advocacy for fluids. In its short history, it has been awarded two Centres for Doctoral Training; contributed vital COVID-19 research and assisted the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) during the pandemic; hosted ministers; championed the role of women in research; presented findings and developments at international conferences; and held numerous national events.

Institute celebrates major societal role. February 2024

Chancellor Professor Dame Jane Francis (left) was part of the Women in Fluids discussion panel. Images by Alex Beldea

Crucial role

During the opening day of its latest event, Professor Belcher spoke about the crucial role fluids play in weather and climate predictions, and how an upcoming revolution in coupling machine learning and fluid dynamics will lead to better predictions. Sir Steven focused on the importance of fluid dynamics for clean energy via fusion, as fluid dynamics are vital in keeping plasma stable.

Dame Ann Dowling opened the second day by discussing the role of fluids in our transition to Net Zero, through the improvement in transport and use of clean hydrogen. Finally, the LIFD’s own Professor Cath Noakes capped off the gathering by focusing on clean air and virus transmission, and how scientists can and should interact with policymakers.

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