The government has announced £95 million funding for the development of ‘super-materials’ in Manchester.

In a visit to the Henry Royce Institute in Manchester, new Business Secretary Grant Shapps said R&D investment is an important way in which to turbocharge UK economic growth.

Awarded via the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), he said the funding for the Royce Institute – based at The University of Manchester – will cement the UK’s position as a world leader in advanced materials.

Advanced materials – including biomaterials, smart materials and nano-engineered materials – possess unique properties enabling superior performance to their traditional counterparts, and are critical in a wide range of industries including health, transport, energy, electronics and utilities.

Activities supported by Royce have included 3D bioprinting for healthcare uses such as tissue engineering in regenerative medicine, turning waste materials into sustainable plastics and new materials to enable quantum technologies.

One project also brought together academia and industry to advance knowledge of how Zirconium alloy insulation can improve the safety and cost-efficiency of highly radioactive fuel used in nuclear reactors as well as reducing their carbon emissions. 

Another project is revolutionising the way the UK’s 35,000 tonnes of annually imported titanium, 90% of which is turned into waste during manufacturing, can be reused to create lightweight alloys used for more efficient vehicles, cutting waste and reducing emissions.

“Growing an economy fit for the future means harnessing the full potential of advanced materials, making science fiction a reality by supporting projects from regenerative medicine to robots developing new recycling capabilities, right across the country – including here in the heart of Manchester,” said Shapps.

“Today’s £95 million investment will do just that, bringing together the brightest minds across our businesses and institutions to help future-proof sectors from healthcare to nuclear energy.”

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The Royce was formed in 2015 with a £235m government investment through EPSRC. To date, it has worked with 295 UK SMEs and industry users and facilitated 350 collaborations between academia and industry.

Its mission is to support the growth of globally recognised excellence in UK materials research, accelerating their use in commercial settings and delivering positive, real-world impacts for our society and economy. Industry partners include Johnson Matthey, Rolls-Royce, Siemens and Tata Steel.

EPSRC executive chair Professor Dame Lynn Gladden said: “Advanced materials are crucial to driving growth across our key industries, from energy and transport to health, and ensuring they are sustainable for the future.

“This funding will build on the success of the Henry Royce Institute so far, to unleash the potential of this transformative technology for the benefit of the economy and the environment.”

Professor David Knowles, Royce CEO, added: “Innovation in advanced materials underpins a wider range of our industrial sectors and is fundamental to our economic growth.

“Our partnership offers a unique combination of materials science expertise, state-of-the-art laboratories and fantastic collaboration spaces for the advanced materials community.

“As we enter our Phase ll operations we are focused now, more than ever, on working with the community to identify the key challenges and opportunities ahead of us, and supporting the translation of innovative research into the viable products and systems needed to ensure a sustainable future for us all.”

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