£127 million of R&D funding will boost UK economic growth


Five new projects will boost economic growth in Northern Ireland, the Midlands, the north of England, Scotland and Cumbria, and Wales.

Announced this week in support of the government’s ambitious new Innovation Strategy, the major research and innovation projects combine industry, local leadership and research and innovation expertise to help maximise an area’s potential and drive productivity. Including, but not limited to:

  • digital dairy farming
  • media and nano-manufacturing
  • greener ceramics.

The projects will receive a share of £127 million government funding from UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) flagship Strength in Places Fund (SIPF). As a result, they will leverage over £110 million from research organisations, businesses, and local leadership.

Project outlines

The projects are led by consortia based in:

  • the Belfast-Derry and Londonderry corridor
  • Stoke-on-Trent
  • Rochdale
  • Edinburgh
  • Cardiff.

Northern Ireland

The Smart Nano NI Consortium will bring together organisations from across Northern Ireland to create and test smart and nano-manufacturing products, boosting the economy and increasing skills in local communities.


The Midlands Industrial Ceramics Group will develop streamlined processes to bring new, advanced ceramics technologies to market faster, with less energy usage and lower carbon emissions. This will lead to jobs growth of 4200 by 2030.

North of England

The Advanced Machinery and Productivity Initiative will stimulate and support rapid growth in the UK’s machinery manufacturing sector:

  • generating 560 local jobs, including 120 new apprenticeships
  • increasing exports by over £130 million.

Scotland and Cumbria

The Digital Dairy Value-Chain will renew and decarbonise the area’s dairy industry, creating more than 600 new jobs and add £60 million to the annual output of the local economy.


media.cymru will accelerate growth in the Cardiff Capital Region’s media sector:

  • driving inclusive, sustainable economic growth
  • creating 2000 jobs
  • creating an additional £236 million in GVA by 2026.

A full list of project summaries is below.

Long-term benefits

Each project will deliver a range of long-term benefits for regional and local economies and communities including:

  • jobs
  • skills provision
  • a more competitive and modern industry
  • better quality of life.

The projects have all been under development with seedcorn funding from UKRI since August 2020. Thanks to the full-stage award announced today, they can now unlock their full potential, with projects to be delivered over the coming years.

SIPF is a competitive funding scheme that funds collaborative bids from diverse consortia of publicly funded research organisations, businesses, and local leadership. It undertakes research and innovation that will have a demonstrable impact on local economic growth.

UKRI Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said:

UK Research and Innovation funding through the Strength in Places Fund brings researchers, industry and local leadership together in outstanding collaborative programmes that catalyse significant economic growth.

The projects funded in this round are excellent illustrations of how local partnerships in research and innovation can contribute to building an inclusive knowledge economy for the UK.

SIPF panel chair, Dame Kate Barker, said:

The Strength in Places Fund, led by UKRI, is unique as it is the only UK funding programme that provides place-based investment in research and innovation activity to support sustained and significant local economic growth across the UK.

These five projects have the potential to deliver research and innovation that will transform activity within their target industries, in a way that is deeply rooted in local strengths and well linked to wider local economic plans.

SIPF is a key part of how UKRI, the UK’s research and innovation funding agency, has responded to the importance of ‘place’ as part of the government’s levelling up agenda and directs its investment to create real, lasting impact.

A cross-council UKRI programme, SIPF is primarily delivered by Research England and Innovate UK in partnership with the higher education funding bodies of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and the Office for Students.

The five projects funded today are:

Northern Ireland: Smart Nano-Manufacturing Corridor

Smart Nano NI Consortium brings together organisations from across Northern Ireland to form a unique cluster of expertise in smart and nano-manufacturing.

In the next five years, the consortium will:

  • create and test over 100 prototypes, leading to novel products for companies in Northern Ireland
  • explore commercial opportunities with over 70 local small and medium sized firms
  • aim for a productivity growth of 30% with industry partners.

Companies in Northern Ireland will get access to new photonics and innovation capabilities, addressing market opportunities in the healthcare, internet communications and cloud data storage sectors.

In this globally expanding field, the consortium will boost the economy and increase skill levels in local communities.

The consortium lead is Seagate Technology, Ireland.

The consortium partners include:

  • Analytics Engines
  • Causeway Sensors
  • Cirdan Imaging
  • Digital Catapult NI
  • North West Regional College
  • Queen’s University Belfast
  • Seagate Technology
  • Ulster University
  • Yelo.

The SIPF investment is £42.4 million.

The total project value, including leveraged funding from other sources, is £63.9 million.

Midlands: Midlands Advanced Ceramics for Industry 4.0

An £18.27 million project for the Midlands Industrial Ceramics Group (MICG), a consortium led by Lucideon. Its aim is to develop streamlined processes to bring new, advanced ceramics technologies to market faster, with less energy usage and lower carbon emissions.

The programme will drive significant expansion in advanced ceramics in the Midlands, leading to jobs growth of 4200 by 2030.

This will enable effective problem-solving and faster commercialisation of new products, unlocking improved performance for next generation products, including:

  • fuel cells and batteries
  • 5G communications
  • ceramic-matrix composites for aero engines
  • medical devices.

The programme will drive significant expansion in advanced ceramics in the Midlands, leading to jobs growth of 4200 by 2030.

It will also boost the competitiveness of manufacturers in the region by developing a robust advanced ceramics supply chain, able to export into one of the fastest growing international industry sub-sectors.

Advanced ceramics are vital ‘enablers’ for many manufacturing sectors including energy, health, aerospace, automotive and defence.

However, developing new technologies is currently based on a variety of experimental approaches with much reworking and high rejection rates, resulting in expensive, time-consuming work.

The consortium lead is Lucideon Group Limited.

The consortium partners include:

  • Rolls-Royce
  • Morgan Advanced Materials
  • Vesuvius (Foseco)
  • Trelleborg Retford
  • McGeoch Technology Limited (Precision Ceramics)
  • CDS
  • PCL Ceramics
  • AEON Engineering
  • Mantec Technical Ceramics
  • Prince Minerals
  • JCB
  • WCM
  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Leicester
  • Loughborough University.

The SIPF investment is £18.3 million.

The total project value, including leveraged funding from other sources, is £42.2 million.

North of England: Advanced Machinery and Productivity Initiative

The Advanced Machinery and Productivity Initiative (AMPI) will enable industry to deliver invention, innovation, and increased adoption of progressive and exploitable technologies.

It will stimulate and support rapid growth in the UK’s machinery manufacturing sector as it transitions to highly integrated digital solutions with sophisticated automated and autonomous robotic systems.

These are needed for the UK to realise its ambitions for economic growth, a resilient supply chain and technologies needed to deliver targets such as net zero carbon emissions and increased export.

Based across West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, the partnership between industry, local government, higher education institutions and the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) will provide businesses with access to cutting-edge R&D, expertise and facilities that help solve innovation challenges.

Through the five-year SIPF programme, AMPI will:

  • stimulate an extra 560 local jobs, including 120 new apprenticeships
  • increase exports by over £130 million
  • deliver an enduring programme for onward growth.

The consortium lead is NPL Management Ltd.

The consortium partners include:

  • Precision Technologies Group Holroyd
  • Fives Landis
  • Wayland Additive
  • CR Solutions
  • Rochdale Development Agency
  • Advanced Machinery and Productivity Initiative Ltd
  • University of Huddersfield’s Centre for Precision Technologies (CPT)
  • University of Leeds’ Institute of Design, Robotics and Optimisation
  • University of Manchester’s Departments of Materials and Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • University of Salford’s Centre for Autonomous Systems and Advanced Robotics (ASAR).

The SIPF investment is £22.6 million.

The total project value, including leveraged funding from other sources, is £43.5 million.

Scotland and Cumbria: Digital Dairy Value Chain

Aiming to create more than 600 new jobs and add £60 million to the annual output of the local economy, the Digital Dairy Value-Chain project will be a considerable boost to Cumbria and South-West Scotland. It will renew and decarbonise the area’s dairy industry, which every year produces 1.9 billion litres of milk.

The project will provide world-class opportunities for research and business innovation in advanced, sustainable, high-value dairy processing.

It will work with the dairy industry to develop and introduce technologies for sensing and data handling, as well as infrastructure to support innovation and growth for local businesses.

It will deliver advanced manufacturing processes to create a fully integrated and traceable supply chain as well as help businesses to develop new products and explore new markets.

The consortium lead is Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC).

The consortium partners include:

  • University of Strathclyde
  • University of the West of Scotland
  • First Milk Limited
  • Lactalis McLelland Limited
  • Kendal Nutricare Limited
  • Cows and Co Group Limited
  • National Milk Records PLC
  • SmartSTEMs.

The SIPF investment is £21.3 million.

The total project value, including leveraged funding from other sources, is £36.9 million.

Wales: media.cymru

media.cymru is a collaboration to accelerate growth in the Cardiff capital region’s media sector.

Led by Cardiff University, this strategic investment programme brings together 24 media production, broadcast, technology, university and local leadership partners for the first time to supercharge media innovation.

Building on successful foundations, media.cymru will drive inclusive, sustainable economic growth and an additional £236 million in GVA by 2026. Across five years, the programme aims to create hundreds of jobs and more innovative firms in the region.

The programme’s activities are designed to respond to emerging technologies, increase small businesses’ capacity for innovation and address skills needs for the future.

media.cymru will develop:

  • solutions to challenges and opportunities for the Welsh media sector in areas including: sustainability; bilingual production; diversity and inclusion; tourism and technology.
  • new infrastructure including a world-class virtual studio.
  • an innovation and R&D pipeline that enables the best ideas to become new products, services and experiences ready for market.

The £50 million programme will make the Cardiff Capital Region a global hub for media innovation and production.

The consortium lead is Cardiff University.

The consortium partners include:

  • Alacrity Foundation
  • BBC
  • Boom Cymru
  • Cardiff Capital Region
  • Cardiff Council
  • Cardiff Metropolitan University
  • Cardiff Productions
  • Channel 4
  • Dragon DI
  • Ffilm Cymru Wales
  • Gorilla TV
  • Great Point Media
  • Nimble Dragon
  • Object Matrix
  • Rescape Innovation
  • Rondo Media
  • S4C
  • Shwsh
  • Town Square Spaces
  • University of South Wales
  • Unquiet Media
  • Wales Interactive
  • Welsh government.

The SIPF investment is £22.2 million.

The total project value, including leveraged funding from other sources, is £50.2 million.

Source: UK Research and Innovation.

Launched in April 2018, UKRI is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). They bring together the seven disciplinary research councils, Research England, which is responsible for supporting research and knowledge exchange at higher education institutions in England, and the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. For more details go to: https://www.ukri.org/


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