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Day in the Life of Dr Michael Leverentz, Royce at Imperial

Dr Michael K Leverentz, Research Development Manager for the Department of Materials and Royce at Imperial.

Dr Michael Leverentz is Research Development Manager at Royce at Imperial, a founding hub partner of the national Henry Royce Institute for advanced materials.

Located in state-of-the-art facilities at the Sir Michael Uren Hub in the heart of White City Innovation District, this dynamic and open access hub supports start-ups, industry and academia to innovate, test, and characterise materials, components and systems. Since officially opening in March 2023, Royce at Imperial has collaborated with over 25 companies, playing a key role in stimulating the advanced materials sector by providing access to high-end facilities, pioneering equipment and world-class technical expertise to facilitate proof of concept and prototyping projects.  

From sustainable synthetic proteins and waterproof cellulose from moist potato plants to implantable hormone devices, single-molecule biological sensors and superconductors, Royce at Imperial is accelerating materials innovation in sectors as diverse as clean energy, vaccine development, transport and communication. As Research Development Manager, Michael’s role is focused on driving the strategic development of this major innovation facility through nurturing industrial and academic research collaboration.

1.  What is a typical day like for you?

I work at both South Kensington or Imperial’s White City campus, so what I’m doing depends on where I am. Typically, my day starts at around 9am, and at South Ken, I usually begin fielding requests from companies that want to access our facilities. To onboard companies, I perform a type of technical triage, ensuring that I have a good understanding of the project and whether we can support it, then proceeding to provide them with access, if we are able to.

When at White City Campus I typically meet the companies we’re working with to finalise the projects, or iron out any snags. I also show our facility to prospective companies and visiting dignitaries; we’ve hosted the French Minister for Higher Education and Research, the Korean Minister for Trade, Industry and Energy as well as the UK Science Minister.

However, the more interesting part of my job begins when I start looking for researchers we can pair with the companies for collaborative grant calls.  The idea behind the Royce Institute is to cultivate the UK Materials sector by bringing together academics executing cutting-edge research and companies translating new technologies to foster material innovation.

Royce at Imperial is a new hub on the 8th floor of the Sir Michael Uren Building in White City Innovation District. The state-of-the-art facilities were funded by the Henry Royce Institute and are a part of Imperial College London’s Department of Materials.

2.  What do you love about working in WCID – in three words?

The science and innovation happening here. The breadth of the very cool stuff invented here is incredible!

3.  Why did you choose to be located here?

The beauty of being located in White City Innovation District is that we have use of a brand-new building, and we were able to design our labs bespoke to our requirements – right from the ground up. Our 140m2 Clean Room in the Sir Michael Uren Hub is tailored precisely to the needs of researchers and innovators who will be using the facility, and we were fortunate to be able to make it as effective and as nice a place to work as possible.

4.  What does ‘innovation’ mean to you and how does your organisation contribute to it?

Innovation here at Royce at Imperial means using basic scientific knowledge to develop something new and apply it to create new functions, including new architectures. We have both the equipment and the know-how to enable researchers to realise these novel structures. From our Deposition Labs and Cleans Rooms to our Characterisation Lab, we open up access to state-of-the-art equipment to companies as well as academic researchers, which is often hugely expensive. Working with us, companies can design a new material, or make nanostructure surfaces that are antimicrobial, for example, and then characterise their new material or devices. We connect people with the equipment that can help them execute their ideas. Essentially, we enable innovation.

5.  What are you most proud of in your current role?

I think I’m perhaps most proud of the number and breadth of companies that we’re able to meet and support. Universities are designed for research, so creating a facility that’s open to commercial entities and enables external access is what I’m most proud of. It really is one of the crown jewels of what can be delivered here in White City Innovation District.

6.  What is the hot topic in your area?

The hot topics currently, and where we’re seeing some intense industry activity, are around sustainable fibres and medical devices. Here in the South East in particular, many companies are working on establishing proof of principle for both new sustainable fibres and novel medical devices.

Taking the NASA Technology Readiness Levels measurement system – where 1 equals researching a basic idea for a new device and 9 means “in space” or product you can buy – we’re firmly operating in the 3-4 level of feasibility research and early technology development, by facilitating deposition and patterning for these breakthrough materials.

7.  What’s the best advice you have for people looking to break into your specialism?

Working in research development, it certainly helps to have a good technical background. My academic background is in biochemistry, and even though I’m now working in materials science and not directly in my field, you become very adept at picking out the salient facts and triaging what you need to know from the whole wealth of information that comes through. You also need to be a people person. Your job is to translate between the technical and scientific side of a project to the people on the business side. I consider myself to be at the interface of academia and industry – helping both sides to understand each other.

8.  What would Plan B have been on the career front?

I would probably be writing science fiction full-time! Sci-fi gives you the opportunity to reinvent a world where you can control the variables, and you can use that to see what the influence of new technologies would be, how it affects people and society as a whole. In this role, I get to see some amazing emerging sciences, and it gives you lots of ideas for stories.

To explore the facilities and collaboration opportunities at Royce at Imperial, you can reach Michael via email.  

Find out how to access Royce at Imperial’s state-of-the-art equipment and facilities through the Henry Royce Institute Access Schemes


Royce at Imperial is a university partner for the ‘Atoms to Devices’ research theme. Atoms to Devices is the atomic scale engineering of new technologies that can translate into applications ranging from photonics, imaging, semiconductors and sensors, to energy storage, biomedical materials and quantum technologies.

The research area comprises modelling, design, growth, fabrication, characterisation, and testing of electronic, spintronic and optoelectronic devices.

The common thread of the Atoms to Devices theme is the deposition of thin films, their fabrication into devices, their characterisation both chemically and structurally (XRD, Raman, XPS, SEM) and their electrical testing, exploring the response of films exposed to electromagnetic fields from DC, through microwave and terahertz, to optical frequencies.

Current and future research

  • Development of electronic materials for the energy transition to meet net zero carbon targets by 2050, including research into photovoltaics, calorics and thermoelectrics, and low-loss electronics.
  • Demonstration of efficient catalysts to support carbon-free hydrogen generation.
  • Development of new device paradigms, including ‘chargeless’ electronics, new computing architectures, and quantum technologies.
  • Design of bioelectronic sensors to support personalised healthcare and clinical assessment.
  • Development of resource-abundant, scalable and recyclable materials.