£15m boost to supercharge UK innovation

In the first of a series of monthly articles, Simon Edmonds discusses the latest innovation news from Innovate UK’s manufacturing and materials division.

Simon Edmonds, director of Manufacturing and Materials, Innovate UK.
Simon Edmonds, director of Manufacturing and Materials, Innovate UK.

UK companies spearheading the latest innovation in manufacturing and materials are to receive a £15m boost from our latest Innovate UK competition for this sector.

Eighty-one companies received the funding for a total of 49 projects, which had to focus on identified technical or commercial challenges, leading to increased productivity, competitiveness and growth for UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

The quality of the projects funded was excellent, and demonstrates the appetite among manufacturing and materials businesses within the UK to innovate and grow.

Examples of projects funded include:

  • Branscan Ltd – use networkable intelligent sensors to detect contaminants in food processing and help provide full traceability of food quality
  • Sweet Perspex – use an innovative bioprocess to manufacture the basic materials for acrylic production. This decreases reliance on petrochemical feedstocks and helps meet demand for sustainable, bio-based materials
  • UltraWELD – their ultrafast laser welding can join highly dissimilar materials in the manufacturing of complex electro-optic devices and OLED lighting
  • Rawwater Engineering – developing an advanced bismuth alloy which can be used to plug oil and gas wells at the end of their lives, addressing the questionable sealing integrity, short lifetime and high cost of the currently used cement plug.

I’d urge all businesses which might be interested in our funding opportunities in manufacturing and materials to check our website for current and future innovation competitions.

This article first appeared in the July/August issue of The Manufacturer magazine. To subscribe, please click here.

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

Details of £1bn from the government to support the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund were revealed by Secretary of State Greg Clark in April. Six areas of innovation funding were identified:

  • Healthcare and medicine
  • Robotics and artificial intelligence
  • Batteries for clean and flexible energy storage
  • Self-driving vehicles
  • Manufacturing and materials of the future
  • Satellites and space technology

The first competitions have opened. Up to £16m is available to UK business across two competitions for robotics and artificial intelligence technologies in applications such as deep mining, nuclear energy, space and offshore energy. For more information please, click here.

Further competitions will follow in July, so please keep an eye on the Innovate UK website for more information.

Innovation - Craig Bartlett, co-founder, MDF Recovery.
Craig Bartlett, co-founder, MDF Recovery.

MDF Recovery – an Innovate UK success story

We are very proud of the success of the companies we have funded, and we like to highlight as many as we can on our website and in publications.

Innovate UK’s purpose is to help UK businesses innovate and grow, so we are always keen to provide examples and highlight success stories.

One such story was how Innovate UK provided funding for a novel wood fibre recovery process from MDF fibreboard. This helped unlock a secondary material source for the industry.

As a result, UK company MDF Recovery has secured a £250,000 investment from a global waste management services group, SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK, to commercialise its pioneering process for recycling medium-density fibreboard (MDF), following six years of intensive research and development.

Their collaboration follows an Innovate UK project where they worked together on a ‘closed loop’ recycling option for waste MDF. The two companies established a pilot plant to refine the process and host demonstrations for potential industrial end-users.

MDF Recovery’s solution generates a new secondary material source for the wood/natural fibre industry. Co-founder Craig Bartlett estimates it could recycle from 30,000 to 60,000 tonnes of MDF waste in the UK each year, and almost three million tonnes globally.

For more information on MDF Recovery, visit their website.

Feedback! All feedback gratefully received. I can be found on Twitter: @SJSEdmonds