RCUK is responsible for most of the publicly-funded research within the UK annually investing around £3 billion in research. This investment includes funding for 19,000 doctoral students, 14,000 research staff and 2,000 research fellows. Impacts: People and Skills profiles a number of researchers from different disciplines who have an impact on the economy and society in a variety of ways. Impact arises from the application of knowledge, skills and experience developed in the course of research. It depends on the people who apply their research, or who can see the potential of discoveries by others. There are several personal attributes that RCUK is keen to encourage and this publication has been divided into sections that reflect these qualities.
Impacts: People and Skills is a celebration of just some of the RCUK funded researchers who are having an extraordinary impact on academia, business and wider society. These people, their skills and expertise are vital to the future prosperity of the UK.
Dr Jenny Tillotson, Senior Research Fellow, Central St Martins, University of the Arts, london
Press a button embedded in your clothing and at different times of the day a tiny release of fragrance, your own ‘scent bubble’, could soothe away your anxiety, cheer you up, or solve your sleeplessness. The possibilities of such a fusion of technology, fashion and the most primitive of our senses, the sense of smell, have been the focus of Dr Jenny Tillotson’s research since she began a degree in Fashion Communication at Central Saint Martins in the early 1990s.
After gaining her Phd and spending time as a sensory designer for a london-based MIT Media lab spinout company, Dr Tillotson joined Central Saint Martins, at the University of the Arts london, to work on ways to deliver fragrances using jewellery and clothing. An AHRC Small Award in 2002 enabled her to develop a prototype, a dress which could act as a ‘smart second skin’ by enabling wearers to refresh their scent throughout the day. “I created a multi-sensory popup
fashion book using microchips for sound, lightemitting diodes and sensory surfaces, but I couldn’t find a way to display scent in an electronic format, the only
method on offer was scratch ‘n’ sniff!” she says. At the time Dr Tillotson was also working in the geriatric and HIV and AIDS healthcare sector. Drawing on her
experience of working as a ‘buddy’ for the Terrence Higgins Trust offering support to people living with HIV and AIDS gave her the idea to create a ‘wearable emotional support system’ through clothing that could help improve wellbeing, reduce malodour and increase confidence. AHRC supported the creation of the patented ‘eScent’ button, triggered by an electrical signal, which can be embedded in clothes and jewellery. This is now being commercialised through a fashion technology UAL spinout company, and its potential for ‘wellness’ products has attracted the interest of a major UK retailer. Dr Tillotson is a STEM ambassador, giving talks to schoolchildren of all ages. “This is an entirely new method of delivery for the fragrance and cosmetics industries, but the potential for this is primarily in healthcare and wellness, with the fashion industry following behind,” adds Dr Tillotson. “We are at the cutting edge of aroma and healthcare, using emerging technologies alongside the ancient art of perfumery. To get to this stage is tremendously fulfilling."