Innovate UK: Backing British innovation

Simon Edmonds reports on a graphene-export success story, innovative 3D printing processes and this year’s impact review on low and zero-emission vehicles.

Neill Ricketts, CEO of advanced-materials business Versarien, whose company has won a major graphene contract with AXIA Materials in South Korea.
Neill Ricketts, CEO of advanced-materials business Versarien, whose company has won a major graphene contract with AXIA Materials in South Korea.

An important area of Innovate UK’s work with businesses across the nation is helping them reach out internationally to partners and opportunities. We do this, for example, through our missions, helping companies find prospective partners and markets abroad.

It is, therefore, very encouraging to report successes from previous missions we’ve run, such as the excellent news that advanced-materials business, Versarien has signed a major deal with a South Korean partner after being part of an Innovate UK mission to the country.

The Cheltenham-based specialist in 2D materials has entered into a collaboration agreement with AXIA Materials.

As part of the work, Versarien’s advanced 2D composite and graphene materials will be used in two projects: first, to support next-generation sensors and thermal devices for composite building panels and structural composites; and second, to improve electric vehicle batteries.

Additionally, AXIA believes there will be many more opportunities for Versarien’s materials to bring other game-changing products to market.

The relationship was formed during an Innovate UK global business innovation programme visit to South Korea. This programme is led on behalf of Innovate UK by the Enterprise Europe Network, working with the UK Science and Innovation Network and Department for International Trade.

It aims to help ambitious technology companies find partners for international collaboration.

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

Developing the future of 3D printing

Another UK manufacturer that is making waves in their industry is specialist chemical manufacturer Photocentric, who are working to transform 3D printing by taking inspiration from devices we use every day, such as mobile phones, tablets and televisions.

The company has been supported through Innovate UK’s open R&D funding programme, which is open to businesses of any size, from any technology area or manufacturing sector.

Paul Holt, MD of specialist chemical manufacturer Photocentric, which is transforming 3D printing with the support of Innovate UK R&D funding.
Paul Holt, MD of specialist chemical manufacturer Photocentric, which is transforming 3D printing with the support of Innovate UK R&D funding.

Since 2002, Photocentric’s research into photopolymers has been supported by Innovate UK grants and private industry.

The company’s research initially revolved around its idea to package light-sensitive liquids in sachets to make stamps for office and craft applications. Photocentric then created the small-scale equipment to process these packs to create the stamps.

This innovation won a Queen’s award in 2016, and another in 2018 for outstanding growth in overseas sales.

To read more about Photocentric’s success and our open R&D funding programme, please click here.

Funding opportunities for businesses

There are some important funding opportunities currently open, which businesses should be aware of:

  • Up to £22m is available for industry-led research and innovation that accelerates the uptake and use of zero-emission vehicles in the UK. The competition is looking for low-cost, highly integrated systems that support zero-emission journeys for cars and other vehicles, including buses, motorbikes and large trucks. There are three opportunities to apply, depending on the stage and size of the project. For more information, click here.
  • The latest Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund opportunity is offering up to £25m to UK businesses working on next-generation batteries. This competition is part of the Faraday Battery Challenge, a £246m investment to bring forward the next generation of electric vehicles. For more information on this latest competition, click here.

Low and zero-emission vehicles

The impact of R&D funding to support low and zero-emission vehicle technologies is highlighted in a recent report we published to coincide with this year’s LCV 2018 event.

This 2018 impact review – Low and zero emission vehicles – looks at 119 funded projects, completed between July 2014 and December 2017, that Innovate UK has funded, together with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles. In total, this represents a substantial £99.5m of grant funding.

The findings show that the profitability of low or zero-emission projects could reach £1.9bn over the next 10 years, and see 6,000 jobs created. It also finds that for every £1 invested, up to £8.40 could be returned to the economy over five to 10 years, and up to £22.60 over 10 to 15 years.

To read more about the report’s findings, click here.

This year’s LCV 2018 saw a record 4,385 visitors and exhibitors, highlighting the growth of the UK low-carbon vehicle industry. The event was linked this year with the Zero Emission Vehicle Summit, when ministers, officials and business leaders from over 40 countries descended on Birmingham and Bedford.

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, addressed the conference and announced £106m for research and development in zero-emission vehicles, new batteries and low-carbon technology. This will be bolstered by more than £500m worth of investment, creating over 1,000 jobs across the UK.

Innovate UK

Simon Edmonds, deputy executive chair & chief business officer, Innovate UK.
Simon Edmonds, deputy executive chair & chief business officer, Innovate UK.

For more information on any of Innovate UK’s funding opportunities, please contact the customer support service:

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