Universities and science minister David Willetts unveiled a £51m investment to fund nine Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Centres for Innovative Manufacturing.
The announcement forms part of the Advanced Manufacturing strand of the Government’s Growth Review and will help stimulate growth through research in the most promising areas of manufacturing including pharmaceuticals, aerospace and the automotive industry.
Of the amount of investment announced, £45m will fund the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) centres, with a further £6m to support the programme through Fellowships.
The national centres, run by universities including Nottingham, Cranfield and Strathclyde, will focus on emerging science including biological pharmaceuticals, novel composite technologies, and intelligent automation, helping generate the new ideas that will fuel growth.
A High-Value Manufacturing Technology and Innovation Centre (TIC), also announced yesterday, will play a key role in taking the research from the EPSRC Centres to the next stage of the innovation chain.
Mr Willetts said: “These centres will increasingly be essential drivers of innovation, opportunity and national prosperity. They will combine inventive research and business acumen to develop the high-tech manufacturing industries we need to secure sustainable growth.”
Minister for Business and Enterprise Mark Prisk added: “Manufacturing generates £140bn a year for the economy and accounts for 55 per cent of total UK exports. And increasingly, it is high tech, advanced manufacturing that leads the way.”
The EPSRC centres are backed by industry partners including GSK, Rolls-Royce, IBM and a range of high-tech small and medium sized enterprises.
The project will be supported by a £6m programme of new EPSRC Manufacturing Fellowships which aim to forge more effective links between business and research. The five year Fellowships will provide support for at least six exceptional engineers and technology specialists from business who are able to bridge university and industrial cultures and who have the potential to transform UK research and manufacturing. Each Fellow will lead a £1 million programme of research.
An example of how the programme works came this week, as it was announced that the EPSRC is providing £10m for three major projects to address fundamental research questions in developing low carbon vehicles. Developed by EPSRC with the Technology Strategy Board, the projects will cover scientific and engineering issues related to hybrid electric vehicles subsystems, the use of recycled and recyclable materials for manufacturing vehicles and optimising the performance of electric motors and power electronics.
Chief executive of the EPSRC Dave Delpy said: “As part of the Integrated Delivery Programme, EPSRC will be supporting a strategic programme of university-based research. The provision of high quality academic research ideas provides the basis for businesses to translate science into the vehicle market.”