6 Dec 2016

New research hubs to strengthen the UK’s manufacturing base

The hubs, announced by the government this week, will explore and improve new manufacturing techniques across areas including targeted biological medicines, advanced measurement, and continuous crystallisation.

Funded by government through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the hubs will draw together expertise from 17 universities and 200 industrial and academic partners to upgrade the UK’s manufacturing capabilities and take greater advantage of the UK’s innovative strengths. Increased collaboration between universities and industry accelerates progress from the research lab to market, creating new and improved products and processes to meet industry’s needs and boost the UK economy.

The three hubs are:

Future Manufacturing Hub in Targeted Healthcare
The current ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to drug development is challenged by the ability to treat patients as individuals. Led by University College London, the Hub will provide the manufacturing infrastructure and capabilities needed to enable UK manufacturers to exploit fully medical precision advances, through new technologies, skilled personnel, IP and spin-outs. The Hub and its Spokes will address the manufacturing challenges to ensure that new targeted biological medicines can be developed quickly and manufactured at a cost affordable to society.

Loughborough lead: Dr Rob Thomas, Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering.

EPSRC Future Advanced Metrology Hub 
The Hub will lead to significant improvements in the speed, accuracy and cost of measurement in manufacturing, and will impact across a wide range of industry sectors including aerospace, automotive and healthcare.Work of the Hub, led from Huddersfield University, willhave far reaching implications for UK manufacturing as improvements in product quality, minimization of waste/rework, and minimum lead-times will ultimately deliver direct productivity benefits and improved competitiveness.

Loughborough lead: Professor Jon Huntley, Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering.

Future Continuous Manufacturing and Advanced Crystallisation (CMAC) Research
In this Hub led by Strathclyde University, research will support industry to move from 'batch crystallisation' (where products are made using large volume tanks), to 'continuous crystallisation' - a more dynamic process which allows manufacturing to take place within smaller, more cost-effective facilities using smaller quantities of expensive ingredients and less energy, with more control over the final product quality and performance.

Loughborough lead: Professor Chris Rielly, Chemical Engineering

Announcing this major investment in the UK’s manufacturing research base, Universities and Science 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.

“This investment will lay the foundations to allow industry and our world-leading universities to thrive for years to come and is exactly the type of project that our upcoming Industrial Strategy will look to support.”

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Chief Executive, said: “Some of these new Hubs will build on the solid foundations of earlier Centres for Innovative Manufacturing while some are completely new ventures that have strong links with industry and organisations such as the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre. EPSRC is pleased to be at the forefront of the drive to keep the UK a prosperous and productive nation.”

Professor Steve Rothberg, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at Loughborough University, said:

“Loughborough has world-class and longstanding research strength in High Value Manufacturing and these three hubs present an exciting opportunity for us to continue to support innovation in this vital area for the UK.

“Working together with industry and academic partners enables us to play our part in developing solutions to real manufacturing challenges.

“The investment in state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment enabled by the Hubs keeps our staff and students working at the very forefront of manufacturing research.”

This announcement follows the government’s Autumn Statement commitment to invest an additional £2 billion per year for research and innovation by 2020/21 to unlock the full potential of the UK’s research base in areas such as robotics and biotechnology.