REF results: Faculty of Science and Engineering

Below, we have listed each unit area for the Faculty, along with the scores and rankings.

Architecture, Built Environment and Planning

9th in UK, 30% of publications rated as 4* (world-leading), 100% 3* and 4* impact.

Architecture at Liverpool has research strengths spanning the humanities, science and engineering, and has received more than £1.4 million in research funding during the last six years.

We engage with the history of modern architecture from a worldwide rather than solely British perspective and specialise in Chinese urbanism, tropical architecture, conservation of post-war buildings in the US and Europe and the design of multifaith spaces across the world. Within the Centre for Architecture and the Visual Arts, we research connections between architecture and popular music, and architecture and film.

Technical research on architecture and the built environment covers projects concerning the influence of climate change on building design, Building Information Modelling and digital design, as well as lighting, sound and vibration in the built environment. Putting research into practice, the Acoustic Research Unit transfers fundamental research on building acoustics measurements into International and European Standards, which are referred to in building regulations in 24 European countries.


1st in the UK for 4* and 3* research (world leading and internationally excellent), doubled % of 4* research.

Research in Chemistry is organised into five closely interlinked research themes, Materials Chemistry, Medicinal and Bio-nano Chemistry, Energy and Catalysis, Functional Interfaces, and Theoretical and Computational Chemistry.

Investment in the new, cross-disciplinary Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy has allowed us to target new research opportunities in areas of future societal importance.

We have attracted £33 million of research income over the past six years and have started new research grants totalling £43 million, while continuing to increase the impact of our research papers.

We have a strategy of strong engagement with industry - our Centre for Materials Discovery, an open access facility for academic-industry collaboration and knowledge exchange, is being expanded by the creation of the Materials Innovation Factory. This £68 million project, part funded by one of the first UK Research Partnership Infrastructure Fund grants, will add a new 11,000 m2 wing to the Chemistry building, allowing us to co-locate academic research in materials with industrial research partners.

Our research underpins commercial impacts that include, heterogeneous catalysis for the environmentally friendly production of ethyl acetate, homogeneous catalysis for a radically new manufacturing process for methyl methacrylate, and powerful new methods for DNA sequencing based on chemically modified DNA.

Computer Sciences and Informatics

1st in UK for 4* and 3* research (world-leading and internationally excellent), leading position with the highest score in the sector for 4* and 3* measures.

Researchers have developed a computer programme entitled ‘In My Shoes’ for communication with children and vulnerable adults. The tool pioneers the use of the triadic interview where a dialogue between clinician and child is mediated through the use of a computer programme. ‘In My Shoes’ is widely used by psychologists, child psychiatrists, health workers, educational workers and specialists in forensic services.

Members of the department have won multiple prizes, including the prestigious Game Theory and Computer Science Prize and the SIAM Outstanding Paper Award.

We are carrying out research into areas such as the effective design of networks to alleviate congestion, the fairest way to assign junior doctors to hospitals for work placements and the best way to use non-cooperative game theory to reduce pollution.

Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences

87% of research at 4* and 3* (world-leading and internationally excellent), 46% new staff since RAE 2008.

Our research covers earth sciences; oceans and climate; and ecology and marine biology.

Recent research achievements include the identification of long-term links between geomagnetic variations and whole mantle convection; the demonstration of how heat waves lead to harmful cyanobacteria blooms and the identification of how coral-reefs ecosystems respond to natural and anthropogenic forcing. We have also developed satellite gravity inversion techniques for mapping ocean-continent transition structure and location, which are now widely used by industrial partners in deep water oil and gas exploration.

We have a close relationship with the National Oceanography Centre. Over the past six years we have invested more than £2 million in facilities – including a new volcanology laboratory and stable isotope facility – and our research grant income has exceeded £12.5 million. We have also grown our PhD student numbers and published 30 papers in high-profile journals such as Science and Nature.

We are currently developing two new research centres: the Liverpool Institute for Sustainable Coasts and Oceans (LISCO) and the Liverpool Earth Observatory (LEO).

Electrical Engineering and Electronics

90% of research at 4* and 3* (world leading and internationally excellent), moving up to 16th from 24th in the sector.

University research in this area focuses on sensors, diagnostics and biomedical devices, information and communications and energy technology. With an annual research income of £2.8 million per annum, we work closely with more than 50 major companies and research organisations.

Our Centre for Intelligent Monitoring (CIMS), established with funding from the European Regional Development Fund and industry, develops intelligent monitoring sensors with a wide range of applications – they are currently being used in electric power distribution companies, the petroleum sector and care homes, as well as in a clinic in India specialising in child care.

Benefiting from £6 million of investment over the last six years, our research facilities include new clean room laboratories for bio-nano electronics research and a new research laboratory in electrical switchgear and plasma discharges in partnership with Pinggao in China as well as two state-of-the-art robotics laboratories.

General Engineering

5th in UK for 4* and 3* research (world leading and internationally excellent research).

The School of Engineering hosts a number of multi-million pound research programmes. We work closely with industry and have established a research centre with Agusta Westland which has driven the exploitation of a computational fluid dynamics research programme for rotor development.

The School’s £6.5 million Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC) promotes the use of virtual engineering by companies, drawing on expertise from the University’s Centre for Autonomous Systems Technology and the Liverpool Institute for Risk and Uncertainty. More than 43 SMEs have developed products through the Centre. A partnership between the VEC and BAE SYSTEMS on autonomy has established a facility for simulating autonomous vehicles operating in civilian airspace.

The Lairdside Laser Engineering Centre (LLEC) is supported by £1.74 million from the European Regional Development Fund to provide access to facilities and expertise in lasers. More than 40 regional SMEs have been supported through the Centre since 2008. The LLEC supported technology company, BioAMD, in the development of laser polymer welding for the manufacture of a blood coagulation monitoring device, which is now being marketed to a large pharmaceutical enterprise.

Geography and Environmental Studies

10% improvement in 4* and 3* research (world-leading and internationally excellent).

Our research covers four main areas: Earth Surface Processes and Environmental Change; Modelling, Population and Geocomputation; Power, Space and Cultural Change; and Spatial Planning and Impact Assessment. Over the past six years, we have attracted £4.5 million in research grant income, representing a 70% increase over the previous assessment period.

Our collaborations with private and Third Sector stakeholders and local authorities, such as our Centre for Global Eco-Innovation have enabled us to invest substantially in laboratory facilities and double our number of PhD students over the last six years. We have significant research strength in the following areas: operational modelling of climate change and disease; flood risk assessment and mitigation; low carbon transition; environmental assessment; geodemographics, population and health; and terrestrial response to climate change and human impact. Emerging research areas include marine spatial planning and geographic data science.

Mathematical Sciences

92% impact judged at outstanding and very considerable, 28% improvement in overall research at 4* and 3*.

Our research focuses on topics ranging from fundamental questions of theoretical mathematics and theoretical physics to applications in material science, biological systems, and financial mathematics.

We have a wide and varied research portfolio - over the past six years we have solved fundamental questions of theoretical mathematic that had remained unsolved for decades, participated in ground-breaking work on the physics of the universe at CERN, discovered advanced materials with new properties, and pioneered new techniques in medical imaging. Our work has been recognised by a Whitehead Prize, a Senior Whitehead Prize, a Philip Leverhulme Prize, and the election of two Fellows of the American Mathematical Society.

We publish regularly in high-quality journals and our externally-funded research projects have attracted more than £8 million in research income in the last six years from funders such as EPSRC, STFC, NERC, BBSRC, the Leverhulme Trust and the European Commission. We have also made, and continue to make, significant investments in new academic appointments and scholarships for outstanding PhD students.


15th in UK for 4* and 3*research (world leading and internationally excellent), 100% excellence in research environment.

The University is a world leader in Physics research, with scientists working in research centres across four continents as well as carrying out research closer to home. Our resources include the Liverpool Semiconductor Detector Centre, the Radiation Detector Laboratory, the Cockcroft Accelerator Science Institute, and the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy.

The Department of Physics holds £58 million of research grants from a variety of funders including the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research council (EPSRC), the Royal Society, the EU and industry.

The Particle Physics group is a lead participant in the ATLAS and LHCb experiments at CERN and contributed directly to the discovery of the Higgs Boson. We also carry out research at Fermilab in the US, J-PARC in Japan and SNOLAB in Canada. The Particle Physics Group is a world leader in silicon detector technology and neutrino detectors.

The Nuclear Physics group is an international leader in the spectroscopy of deformed and heavy nuclei and in high resolution gamma-ray spectrometry and imaging, working at CERN, GSI in Germany, and at facilities in Japan, the US, Canada, Finland, Italy and South Africa.

At the Cockcroft Institute we contribute to the design and optimisation of new accelerator technologies at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider and its future upgrades, as well as other facilities.

The Condensed Matter Physics group plays a key role in the University’s Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy and in healthcare via the ALICE project at Daresbury (the UK’s only fourth generation light source). The group also leads the UK Materials Beamline (XMAS) at the European Synchrotron Radiation Laboratory in Grenoble, France.

Working with partners from industry and the public sector we develop applications including new materials for the health sector; 3D gamma-ray imaging and fast/slow neutron detection for the nuclear and security sectors; anti-neutrino detectors for reactor monitoring; radiation-hard silicon detectors for medical imaging; novel cancer detection equipment (PET/SPECT) based on germanium, CZT and CdTE sensors; and imaging analysis and data-handling algorithms.

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