£95 million to cement UK’s standing as leader in advanced materials research and innovation

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Credit: EPSRC

Business Secretary Grant Shapps has announced a second phase of EPSRC funding for the Henry Royce Institute, the UK’s advanced materials research institute.

The £95 million announced this week will help to cement the UK’s standing as a leader in advanced materials research, development and innovation.

Speaking during a visit to the institute’s hub at The University of Manchester, the Business Secretary said:

R&D investment is a critical way to turbocharge Britain’s growth.

Growing an economy fit for the future means harnessing the full potential of advanced materials, making science fiction a reality by supporting projects from regenerative medicine to recycling robots right across the country, including here in the heart of Manchester.

Today’s £95 million investment will do just that, bringing together the brightest minds across our businesses and institutions to help future-proof sectors from healthcare to nuclear energy.

The Royce was formed in 2014 with a £235 million government investment through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Its mission is to support the growth of world-recognised excellence in UK materials research, accelerating commercial exploitation and delivering positive economic and societal impact.

Advanced materials are critical to a wide range of sectors and industries, including health, transport, energy, electronics and utilities.

Advanced materials-related activity contributes an estimated £14.4 billion in gross value added to the UK economy, equivalent to around £72,000 per employee, 25% above the UK average.

They were identified as one of seven technology families where the UK has globally competitive research and development (R&D) and industrial strength in the government’s Innovation Strategy.

Advanced materials refer to all new materials and modifications to existing materials to obtain superior performance in one or more characteristics that are critical for the application under consideration.

They provide significant advantages over traditional materials, for instance creating high-strength components for planes and cars. They also allow for more sustainable manufacturing and technologies, which will help us get to net zero.

Royce works across the UK’s regions with academic and industry partners to stimulate innovation and the development of robust local economies which can operate in a global environment. Partners include Johnson Matthey, Rolls-Royce, Siemens and Tata Steel.

This work varies from funding and providing the facilities needed for early-stage fundamental research that is crucial to innovation, to identifying opportunities with industry to drive closer research collaboration.

Examples include lightweight materials and structures, biomaterials, materials for batteries and fuel cells, and materials designed for reuse, recycling and remanufacture.

EPSRC Executive Chair Professor Dame Lynn Gladden said:

Advanced materials are crucial to driving growth across our key industries, from energy and transport to health, and ensuring they are sustainable for the future.

This funding will build on the success of the Henry Royce Institute so far, to unleash the potential of this transformative technology for the benefit of the economy and the environment.

To date the Royce has worked with 295 small and medium sized enterprises and industry users and facilitated 350 collaborations between academia and industry.

Examples of projects so far include:

  • new cladding for nuclear reactors to improve safety, cost efficiency and carbon reduction
  • developing materials needed for quantum computing
  • utilising surplus materials from the shellfish industries to replace plastic in feminine hygiene products
  • an innovative method for manufacturing titanium that greatly reduces the amount that goes to waste
  • using robots to develop revolutionary new materials from medicinal materials to catalysts for plastics recycling
  • use of 3D bioprinting techniques in the development and manufacture of bioengineered systems and devices for application in:
    • tissue engineering
    • regenerative medicine
    • drug development
    • other more traditional areas of healthcare

Professor David Knowles, Royce CEO said:

Royce and its partners across the UK, along with the advanced materials community, is very pleased to be able to confirm this phase 2 EPSRC funding.
Innovation in advanced materials underpins a wider range of our industrial sectors and is fundamental to our economic growth.

Our partnership offers a unique combination of materials science expertise, state-of-the-art laboratories and fantastic collaboration spaces for the advanced materials community.

As we enter our phase 2 operations we are focused now, more than ever, on working with the community to identify the key challenges and opportunities ahead of us, and supporting the translation of innovative research into the viable products and systems needed to ensure a sustainable future for us all.

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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