How to meet the world's growing appetite for sustainable food production and how to create novel medical devices to improve healthcare are two of the biggest research priorities of the 21st century.
And now leading researchers from The University of Nottingham will play a larger part in tackling them, thanks to a multi-million pound grant for innovative manufacturing announced today by the government.
A new Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Food will be led by the University's School of Biosciences with funding worth £4.5 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The University will also be involved in a new Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Medical Devices, with another EPSRC grant of £5.7 million for the pioneering healthcare technology of the future.
The Centres are two of four announced today by the EPSRC in a £21 million drive to develop new ways of manufacturing in the fields of electronics, lasers in production processes, medical technology and food production. It is part of a £45 million package of investments in manufacturing research announced today by David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science.
The ultimate aim of the new EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Food is to ensure the long-term competitiveness and security of the UK and global food supply chain.
Leading the centre, Dr Tim Foster from the University's Division of Food Sciences, said: "Our vision is to meet the future scientific and technological requirements of the food industry from post-farm gate to supermarket shelf. To do this we need to develop world-leading technologies, tools and processes tailored to the specific needs of individual food products. Food and Drink is the biggest manufacturing sector in the UK and with an expected rapid growth in 'better value' and healthier products, particularly for the ageing population, we need to innovate to increase productivity — to produce more from less — while preserving natural resources like water and energy and minimise waste generation."
The University of Nottingham's Engineering Faculty was also successful in a joint bid, with Leeds, Newcastle, Bradford and Sheffield with strong support from industry, for an EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Medical Devices.
Professor of Materials Science and Head of Advanced Materials Research Group, David Grant, said: "The EPSRC Centre in Innovative Manufacturing in Medical Devices will research and develop advanced methods for functionally stratified design and near patient manufacturing, to enable cost effective matching of device function to the patient needs and surgical environment. The idea is to deliver the right product, by the right process to the right patient at the right time to an enhanced standard of reliability and performance.
"These innovative design and manufacturing advances will focus in the first instance on class 3 medical devices for musculoskeletal disease, where the cost of device failure and need for throughout life reliability are high. My colleagues and I are looking forward to meeting this manufacturing challenge through our expertise in novel materials and processing, imaging and modelling, and collaborating with our colleagues in the consortium in the next generation manufacturing of medical devices."
Speaking ahead of the BIS Manufacturing Summit on Thursday, Mr Willetts said: "The UK has a proud history of manufacturing but to build on this success industry needs access to the very latest science and technology. This £45 million package of investment will see our world-class research base investigating innovative new manufacturing equipment and techniques. This will support our industrial strategy in a range of important sectors, driving growth and keeping the UK ahead in the global race."
EPSRC's Chief Executive Professor David Delpy said: "EPSRC Centres of Innovative Manufacturing are building on previous investments we have made in the research base and combining academic innovation with industry knowledge. These new centres are in areas that are strategically important to the UK and the work there will push boundaries and drive growth."
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