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Investment in UK manufacturing research

 December 6, 2016 | Simon Jenkins

Six new multi-million pound research hubs, aimed at strengthening the UK’s manufacturing industries, have been announced this week by Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson MP.

Leeds is playing a key role in two of the hubs, set to help transform manufacturing techniques and processes, to help industry create new products and ensure the UK becomes more competitive and productive.

Funded through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the hubs draw together expertise from universities and industrial partners, and forms a critical part of the government’s Industrial Strategy to further UK economic growth.

Professor Elaine Martin, Head of the School of Chemical and Process Engineering at the University, believes Leeds is well placed to drive innovation following its own investment of £96m in Engineering and Physical Sciences.

Professor Martin continued: “Our expertise, which reaches across virtually all industrial sectors, will help industry tackle very real scientific and technological challenges, with this investment unlocking the full potential of the UK’s research base.”

The Manufacture using Advanced Powder Processes (MAPP) hub will focus on developing new powder-based manufacturing technologies that offer low energy, low cost and low waste manufacturing processes and products in sectors such as aerospace and energy.

MAPP brings together expertise from the Universities of Leeds, Manchester, Oxford, Imperial College and Sheffield with 17 industrial partners and 6 UK High Value Manufacturing Catapults.

The £10m investment by the EPSRC is matched with over £7m from industry and over £3m from universities.

Professor Andrew Bayly, from the School of Chemical and Process Engineering, is leading the team at Leeds involved in MAPP.

He continued: “We will use our expertise in particle modelling, characterisation and manufacturing to understand how individual particle properties influence the production process.

“Our role is to address the fundamental science and engineering challenges which limit the development and uptake of powder-based processes.

“By exploiting the potential of these new powder-based manufacturing technologies, we will be able to support our industry partners and help strengthen UK manufacturing processes and capabilities.”

The Continuous Manufacturing and Advanced Crystallisation (CMAC) hub’s focus is on addressing the challenges faced by the UK’s pharmaceutical and chemicals sectors, as well as delivering improvements to societal health and wellbeing.

It aims to advance the speed and agility of drug development, manufacture and supply through novel continuous manufacturing processes.

Professor Sven Schroeder, from the School of Chemical and Process Engineering, is leading the Leeds team alongside Professor Kevin Roberts.

He continued: “There is a history of using the same fundamental processes to manufacture high-value chemical products and this needs to change, to produce better products, at lower cost, more sustainably.

“The hub funding enables us to establish a research team in the research complex at Harwell, to apply modern synchrotron X-ray methods at Diamond Light Source for characterising, monitoring and optimising continuous manufacturing processes.

“Through this capability Leeds is set to play a major role in establishing design principles for producing particles with targeted function and accelerating adoption of continuous manufacturing in industry.”

The hub is led by the University of Strathclyde, and project partners, including 10 of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, have contributed a further £31m in addition to the £10m EPSRC funding.

Commenting on the government investment, Minister Jo Johnson said: “Developing new innovative manufacturing techniques will help UK industry create new products, explore more business opportunities and ensure the UK becomes more competitive and productive.

Investment in UK manufacturing research