A clear focus on future investments

With a cutting-edge glass furnace facility and next-generation medical technology centre both in the pipeline, Simon Edmonds rounds up the latest funding opportunities for manufacturers across the UK.

UK businesses helping to protect frontline staff: In the past months through these columns I have been pleased to showcase some of the extraordinary work of UK manufacturers to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Innovate UK has supported this vital work through significant grant funding in 2020. One of the many recipients was life sciences automation company, 3P innovation. The company soon responded to the PPE challenge earlier in the year and received Innovate UK support for its visor project. After two months of production, more than 30,000 PPE visors were produced and donated to over 350 hospitals. To read more about this important project please see www.bit.ly/InnovateUKDec01.

3P has received previous support from Innovate UK as earlier this year it was awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Innovation in recognition of outstanding achievement for innovation for its Fill2Weight powder dosing technology. The technology is designed to address the challenges of getting powder to flow and dispense accurately for pharmaceutical and medical device products.

To find out more about the technology, please see www.bit.ly/InnovateUKDec02

Cutting-edge manufacturing facility investments

Innovate UKTwo further significant investments have gained important next steps helping to boost the UK’s manufacturing capabilities in crucial areas.

Firstly, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is investing £15m in an experimental glass furnace facility run by Glass Futures Ltd, a not-for-profit company.

The facility will be capable of producing 30 tonnes of glass a day for R&D into products such as bottles, jars and windows, and will be located in St Helens on a former glassworks site historically occupied by United Glass.

This funding represents the largest single item from UKRI’s Transforming Foundation Industry challenge budget of £66m across four years.

The programme aims to help energy-intensive foundation businesses to share expertise, adapt to new technology and create radical new innovations to help reduce their carbon footprint.

The project provides users with access to a scaled-down manufacturing facility for making process improvements, enabling them to avoid the need to interrupt regular production.

Research undertaken at the facility will focus on improvements in energy and resource efficiency, alternative raw materials, productivity improvements and training.

Meeting future health challenges

Building work has also begun on the UK’s first national Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre (MMIC). The centre, to be headquartered in Scotland, is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Scottish government, and involves a collaboration between the public and private sector, including GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca.

Companies of all sizes will be able to use the facilities to evaluate, test and prototype processes using an array of advanced technologies including continuous, digital and autonomous manufacturing.

The centre will use next-generation technology to produce drugs more efficiently and meet the health challenges now and in the future by bringing new medicines to market safely and quickly.

It will be completed in late 2021 and be operational in early 2022, creating 80 jobs in both technical and non-technical roles.

Innovate UK

Funding opportunities ATI Programme: R&D funding for smaller businesses: R&D funding for smaller businesses: up to £8m is allocated from the ATI Programme for SMEs to deliver world-leading aerospace technologies in the UK. This supports and encourages industrial investment into the aerospace sector and its supply chain through the funding of innovative and high impact projects. These projects will demonstrate forward-looking and disruptive solutions to UK civil aerospace challenges. The competition closes on Wednesday 6 January – for more information please see  www.bit.ly/InnovateUKDec03

SMEs transforming food production: UK registered SMEs that are transforming food production towards net zero can apply for a share of up to £5m in grant support. This must align with a series A investment. The grant funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. The competition closes on Wednesday 13 January – for more information please see www.bit.ly/InnovateUKDec04

Future plastic packaging solutions: Innovate UK will invest up to £2m from the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Programme (SSPP) for early-stage projects. The Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge aims to establish the UK as a leading innovator in smart and sustainable plastic packaging for consumer products. Its goals are to deliver cleaner growth across the supply chain, with a dramatic reduction in plastic waste entering the environment by 2025. The competition closes on Wednesday 20 January – for more information please see  www.bit.ly/InnovateUKDec05.