UK unveils huge £95million boost into ‘super-materials’

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The Government has announced a new £95million funding boost into research and development of “the super-materials of the future”, which he believe is the key to accelerating the UK’s growth. Grant Shapps, the Business Secretary unveiled the funding, which will be delivered to the Henry Royce Institute, headquartered in Manchester, for research and innovation in advanced materials. These materials, which include biomaterials, smart materials and nano-engineered materials, are ones that possess unique properties enabling superior performance to their traditional counterparts and are critical in a wide range of industries including health, transport, energy, electronics and utilities.

Yesterday, Mr Shapps visited the Royce Institute as part of his first official trip as Business Secretary. Here, he stressed his “strong belief” that research and development was a critical way to boost the country’s economic growth.

This funding boost was awarded through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and cements the UK’s position as a leader in the global advanced materials research sector. 

The Government’s support will go towards activities including 3D bioprinting for healthcare uses such as tissue engineering in regenerative medicine, turning waste materials into sustainable plastics, and new materials to enable quantum technologies.

One of the projects, which involves both researchers and industry, is involved in the study of how Zirconium alloy insulation can improve the safety and cost-efficiency of highly radioactive fuel used in nuclear reactors as well as reduce their carbon emissions.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy noted that this technology could be essential to the success of Britain’s future nuclear fleet, which the Government aims to ramp up as part of its Energy Security strategy.

Speaking during a visit to the Institute, based at The University of Manchester, Mr Shapps 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 robots developing new recycling capabilities, right across the country – including here in the heart of Manchester.

“Today’s £95million 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.”

Another project is looking to “revolutionise” how the UK uses and reuses the 35,000 tonnes of titanium it imports to use as lightweight alloys for more efficient vehicles.

90 percent of the titanium imported is wasted during the manufacturing process, and researchers are now looking at ways to reuse the metal, thus cutting costs and waste.

The funding announced this week will advance the Royce Institute’s work to support early-stage research in these materials by providing financial backing, access to research facilities, and opportunities for collaboration between businesses and researchers.

The institute was formed in 2015 with the help of a £235million Government investment through the EPSRC. Since then, Royce has collaborated with 295 UK SMEs and industry users and facilitated 350 collaborations between academia and industry.

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TBC 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 ll 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 ll 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.”

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.”

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