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Dr Ajit Pillai

Rising research star secures prestigious Fellowship

One of the University of Exeter’s rising research stars has been awarded a prestigious Engineering Research Fellowship, it has been announced. 

Dr Ajit Pillai, from Exeter’s Renewable Energy department, has been awarded a highly competitive fellowship from the Royal Academy of Engineering, which begins on October 1st 2021. 

The fellowships, awarded to 16 of the UK’s best early-career researchers each year, are designed to advance excellence in engineering by enabling early-career researchers to concentrate on basic research in any field of engineering. 

Each awardee receives five years’ worth of funding to advance their research careers. They also receive mentoring from experienced Academy Fellows, providing valuable advice and industry links that will enable the researchers to establish themselves as future leaders in their fields 

Dr Pillai’s project, called A new spatial data paradigm integrating autonomous vessels and models, is focused on the development and deployment of optimization algorithms to aid in the design of offshore renewable energy devices and arrays. 

Dr Pillai said: “Offshore renewable energy and offshore engineering rely on accurate characterisation of the marine environment. During the course of this fellowship, I will be developing new techniques to integrate numerical physics-based models with targeted, dynamic measurement campaigns using autonomous vessels to reduce offshore uncertainty and develop a new framework for spatial data.  

“Beyond helping the offshore renewable energy sector improve the data that their designs and operations rely on, I hope that this approach of integrating autonomous vessel measurements and numerical modelling can be more widely applied throughout engineering and science to improve our understanding and use of spatially distributed data.” 

Professor Lars Johanning, from the University of Exeter’s Renewable Energy department added: “We are delighted that Ajit Pillai was awarded the RAEng Research Fellowship on  the topic ‘spatial data paradigm integrating autonomous vessels and models’ bringing together his formidable knowledge to lead the way for future autonomous vessel integration into almost boundless renewable offshore energy resource.  

“The University of Exeter is one of the country’s leading offshore energy research institutions addressing the challenges of the energy transition towards Net Zero. I believe this exciting opportunity given to Ajit Pillai will enable to drive future commercial strategies in this filed through vital research into autonomous systems within the Ocean Renewable Energy and establish him as a pioneer in the field.’ 

Professor Philip Nelson CBE FREng, Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowships Steering Group, says: “The Academy owes a huge debt of gratitude to the many Fellows who provide a considerable amount of time and in-kind help with the selection, mentoring and networking of awardees. 

"By providing long-term support in this way, they are helping the next generation of leaders establish their independence and global reputation and contribute towards building a sustainable society and inclusive economy that works for everyone.” 

Date: 20 September 2021

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