�3.6m to advance manufacturing using light

£3.6m of funding will be made available to 14 innovative projects exploring laser-guided positioning in pharmaceutical testing, photo chemistry and other light-related processes.

The funding has been announced by Vince Cable, the UK Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills during his visit to M Squared, a laser development company based in Glasgow.

“This new funding will develop research to support the UK’s growing manufacturing sector which already employs around 2.5 million people,” Cable said. “This early stage research will give businesses such as M Squared a great opportunity to develop new technologies to create more effective and efficient manufacturing processes.”

Universities including the Imperial College London, the University of Edinburgh, Liverpool, Surrey, Nottingham or Southampton will benefit from the funding.

The projects included cover a wide range of applications such as controlling electronic forces using light patterns to assemble electronic components into circuits and using lasers as a growth technique to create high-power laser devices that can be adopted by the UK manufacturing sector.  

The funding comes from The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, (EPSRC) and will cover a number of 18-month feasibility studies that aim to advance core science towards manufacturing in diverse sectors including pharmaceuticals, chemicals, electronics and security.

“These projects demonstrate how research into the fundamental science and engineering of optical phenomena can have a significant impact in manufacturing and also shows how well the UK academic base works with industry to enable the UK to benefit from fundamental discoveries,” said David Delpy, Chief Executive of The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

During his visit to Glasgow, Cable has also opened a new pharmaceutical research centre, believed to revolutionise the way pharmaceuticals are manufactured.

The EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Continuous Manufacturing and Crystallisation (CMAC) is bringing together leading academics and industrialists from across the UK to find quicker, more effective and more sustainable ways of manufacturing products.

It has received more than £25m of UK Government funding along with industry and charity contributions of £22.8m.

Based at Strathclyde University, it also involves Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Loughborough and Bath universities.

"One of the strengths of Scottish universities is that world-class science and research is done here, but it is strengthened by the fact that it is part of the UK network and very substantial amounts of funding do come from the UK Government, they also come from the Scottish Government, there is a very strong sense of working together and that's the way we want to keep it," Cable said.

"The UK is ranked second only to the US in terms of world-class research. The UK's life sciences sector employs almost 170,000 people in more than 4,500 companies across industries such as health, agriculture, medicine and food science.

"Our continued investment in this area will strengthen our global position, creating new jobs and maintaining the UK as a world leader in medical research."

Companies which have invested in CMAC include GSK, Novartis, AstraZeneca and Cancer Research UK.

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