N8 headquartered Henry Royce Institute celebrates £95m new government funding for advanced materials research and development


Image sourced from University of Manchester 

The N8 Research Partnership has welcomed the announcement of a £95 million boost to the Henry Royce Institute, headquartered at the University of Manchester, which will enable new advanced materials research and development, critical to industries including health, transport, energy, electronics and utilities. 

Business Secretary Grant Shapps visited the Royce Institute on Thursday 3rd November in his first official trip since assuming the role at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. 

The significant cash injection was awarded via the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and cements the UK’s position as world-leader in advanced materials, and follows an initial £258 million government investment made over the course of five years. 

Advanced materials (including biomaterials, smart materials and nano-engineered materials) possess unique properties enabling superior performance to their traditional counterparts. 

The funding will advance the Institute’s work to support early-stage research in these materials by providing financial backing, access to research facilities, and opportunities for collaboration between businesses and researchers. 

Dr Annette Bramley, director of the N8 Research Partnership, said: “Advanced materials research is one of many jewels in the crown of the N8 and we are delighted by the investment announced this week. It is a welcome acknowledgement of the world-leading research and innovation base here in the North of England which is crucial for delivering growth in our economy and better prosperity and health for the whole of the UK.  We look forward to supporting our colleagues across industry and academia during this exciting new chapter.” 

Speaking during his visit to the Institute, the Business Secretary said: “R&D investment is a critical way to turbocharge Britain’s growth. 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. 

“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.” 

Professor David Knowles, Royce CEO said: ‘Royce and its partners across the UK, along with the advanced materials community, is very pleased to be able to confirm this Phase ll EPSRC funding. 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.’ 

Activities supported by Royce and backed by government funding 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. 
  • A collaboration between 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. This technology could be essential to the success of Britain’s future nuclear fleet, which the government aims to ramp up in order to boost energy security and slash bills. 
  • A project that explored how 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. 

The Royce was formed in 2015 with a £235 million government investment through EPSRC. To date, the Royce 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. 

Advanced Materials and Manufacturing were identified in the government’s Innovation Strategy as 1 of 7 technology families in which the UK has globally competitive R&D and industrial strength.