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Artistic impression of the Advanced Ceramics Campus for the Midlands. Image courtesy of CPMG architects.

Loughborough University is part of £18.27 million UKRI investment that puts Midlands firmly on the map for advanced ceramics

The Midlands Industrial Ceramics Group (MICG) - of which Loughborough University is a founding member - has secured £18.27 million in government funding provided through UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Strength in Places Fund (SIPF), to put the area firmly on the map as a global centre for advanced ceramics.

Loughborough's Professor Bala Vaidhyanathan

Thousands of jobs are set to be created in the Midlands after the region’s bid to become a world-leader in advanced ceramics received the significant cash boost.

The funds will be used to create a world-leading industrial and academic research and development programme over the next four years, creating a cluster of new businesses in the Midlands and strengthening the supply chain in the region.

The SIPF funding, combined with partner investment and the creation of new business opportunities, will together make the programme a £42.1 million project. 

Formed by some of the area’s largest businesses and universities, the MICG was launched in 2020 to deliver a world-leading approach to advanced ceramics.

Membership of the MICG is made up of blue-chip companies and SMEs including Rolls-Royce, JCB, Morgan Advanced Materials and Lucideon - as well as the universities of Birmingham, Leicester and Loughborough.

Ian Edmonds, of Rolls-Royce, is the chair of MICG. He said: “This is great news for the Midlands.

“Advanced ceramics are often unseen but vital components of jet engines, electronics, medical devices, car batteries, other energy technologies and many more manufactured products. 

“They allow products to operate at higher temperatures, in more challenging environments and can last longer than plastic or metal equivalents.

“Globally, the advanced ceramics sector is projected to be worth £143 billion by 2023, and the outcome of this funding means the Midlands is well-placed to be part of it.”

Led by UK Research and Innovation, Strength in Places Fund (SIPF) is a competitive funding scheme that takes a place-based approach to research and innovation funding, to support significant local economic growth.

Professor Bala Vaidhyanathan, who has played a key role in the academic element of the MICG and leads the Advanced Ceramics Research at Loughborough University’s Department of Materials, said: “We are extremely pleased to be part of this winning SIPF bid.

“This project deals with the development of energy efficient, agile manufacturing processes that will give the Midlands advanced ceramics sector a very strong competitive advantage and will provide state-of-the-art training to the next generation skilled workforce.

“Furthermore, the successful outcomes will provide an integrated platform of digitally intuitive manufacturing enabling the UK to lead, adopt and adapt to the emerging Industrial Revolution 4.0."

Professor Steve Rothberg, the Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research at Loughborough added “I want to congratulate Professor Vaidhyanathan’s team. This is a great recognition for our world-leading advanced ceramics research and will strengthen our drive towards achieving significant reduction in energy consumption, carbon emission and material waste during ceramics manufacturing.”

The successful outcome of the SIPF funding is also set to unlock further investment from MICG’s partners.

This includes opening up opportunities for the next stage of the development, an Advanced Ceramics Campus proposed for North Staffordshire – which will make the total investment exceed £80 million and ultimately contribute towards 4,200 new jobs in the region over the next decade.

Tony Kinsella, chief executive of Lucideon, said: “We are absolutely delighted to receive the funding from UKRI.

“It will create many exciting opportunities in research and development across the Midlands.

“Crucially, it also opens up opportunities to attract further public and private sector funding for the Advanced Ceramics Campus.

“This facility will provide an important hub for industry, offering a centre of excellence for research and development, as well as underpinning academic research.

“It will create an environment for business and academia to share knowledge and collaborate on research and development, safeguarding existing jobs and allowing existing companies to expand, as well as providing opportunities for new start-ups.

“The campus will also have knock-on benefits across the Midlands, with innovation improving productivity and competitiveness in manufacturing, helping to ‘level up’ the region’s economy and create new efficiencies to drive down emissions.”

More details about MICG can be found at https://micg.org.uk/

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 21/134

About Loughborough University

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2021 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in the Guardian University League Table 2021, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

The Midlands Industrial Ceramics Group (MICG):

The Midlands Industrial Ceramics Group (MICG) was established in 2020 to ensure advanced ceramics help drive the competitiveness and success of Midlands advanced manufacturing by tackling key innovation challenges.

Advanced ceramics are vital to fulfil the growing need for high performance materials in ever more demanding conditions across a wide variety of manufacturing sectors.

The MICG’ research programme will combine industrial and academic expertise to create a unified process for the development and commercialisation of new and enhanced processes and products.

The wider aims of the MICG are to:

  • Make the Midlands the go-to location for the global R&D and production of advanced ceramics
  • Increase the competitiveness of the Midlands industrial base
  • Enhance industrial ability to develop innovative ceramic technologies with speedy marketplace adoption
  • Deliver a multi-sectoral approach with rapid translation of new technologies for the advantage of a whole range of industrial sectors
  • Strengthen the UK advanced ceramics supply chain for the benefit of the Midlands advanced manufacturing sector.

The MICG will drive technological breakthroughs in advanced ceramic materials and their manufacturing processes, leading to the development of lower energy and cost routes for functional and structural advanced ceramics.

Its partners are clear that to continue to compete internationally there is an urgent need to constantly enhance current processes and develop future manufacturing techniques, in the area of advanced ceramics.

The partners are;

Lucideon

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

About UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is the largest public funder of research and innovation in the UK, with a budget of over £8bn. It is composed of seven disciplinary research councils, Innovate UK and Research England.

We operate across the whole country and work with our many partners in higher education, research organisations businesses, government, and charities.

Our vision is for an outstanding research and innovation system in the UK that gives everyone the opportunity to contribute and to benefit, enriching lives locally, nationally and internationally. 

Our mission is to convene, catalyse and invest in close collaboration with others to build a thriving, inclusive research and innovation system that connects discovery to prosperity and public good.

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