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Crucial research and innovation projects get government funding

The government has announced that 17 ambitious projects across the UK will receive funding of up to £50,000 each, helping the nation respond to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, from climate change to the production of medicines.

Running from Glasgow and Belfast, through to Nottingham and parts of Cornwall, the projects being backed by the government include heating homes and businesses in Glasgow using energy from disused mines; digitising the UK construction sector so it is safer and more productive; researching quicker ways of diagnosing cancer, and accelerating building of large scale offshore wind farms in the South West of England.

Through the second round of UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) flagship 'Strength in Places Fund', each project will be able to apply for a further longer-term investment of £10-50m later this year if the early stages of development are successful.

The 17 research projects will receive up to £50,000 each to drive local economic growth, provide skills training, and create high-value jobs. The funding forms part of government plans to promote the country’s economic recovery through research and development.

This follows the announcement by the government in June this year of the first wave of the fund, which saw seven projects benefit from £400m of government and industry funding to develop their research and innovation projects.

One of those projects, Artemis Technologies, led a consortium that was awarded £33m to develop zero-emission ferries in Northern Ireland. Partners of the project plan to establish Belfast as a global leader in zero-emission maritime technology.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said, “We are backing our innovators and with the support they need to turn great ideas into first-class industries, products and technologies.”

“From virtual construction projects to extracting clean heat from disused mines, the pioneering projects we are funding today will help create jobs and boost skills across the UK as we continue to drive forward our economic recovery.”

The funding forms part of the government’s commitment to increase public spending in research and development (R&D) by £22bn by 2024/25, putting the UK on track to reach 2.4 per cent of GDP being spent on R&D across the UK economy by 2027. It also follows the publication of the government’s 'R&D Roadmap' in July, which set out plans to drive the country’s economic recovery through research and development and level up UK regions.

The full list of projects receiving funding is as follows:

Smart Nano Manufacturing Corridor (Northern Ireland): led by data company Seagate Technology Ireland, the project will bring together organisations from across the Belfast-Londonderry Corridor, connecting experts in photonics design, prototyping and mass-production of new miniaturised optical devices for medical imaging and cloud communications.

The Northern Ireland Precision Biomarkers and Therapeutics Consortium (Northern Ireland): led by Queen’s University Belfast, the consortium will convene partners from industry and academia to develop new, more cost-effective targeted drugs and antibodies, as well as researching new, quicker ways of diagnosing cancer.

Digital Dairy Value-Chain (South-West Scotland and Cumbria): Led by Scotland’s Rural College, the consortium will combine digital communications with advanced manufacturing to help create a more modern, efficient, resilient dairy industry.

Centre for Regulated Bio-Manufacture (Edinburgh): led by Heriot-Watt University, the consortium aims to establish an advanced therapies, biologics and manufacturing cluster in the Lothian region. Working with the NHS and industry, and through the creation of a new building for real-world learning and cutting edge laboratory facilities, it will seek provide highly skilled training for the local population to help identify essential new therapies and bio therapeutics such as antibodies for the UK.

HotScot (Glasgow): led by the University of Strathclyde, the consortium oversee three new minewater geothermal projects, extracting heat from old flooded mines, which will help to provide low-cost, low-emissions heat for communities and businesses across Scotland’s Central Belt.

Creative Capital (Cardiff): led by Cardiff University, the project will look to harness the digital innovation displayed in the response to Covid-19, as well as Cardiff’s international reputation for film and TV production, by bringing together UK broadcasters, small local businesses and freelancers to research and develop new products and services in Wales for global markets.

The International Centre for Connected Construction (Newcastle): led by Northumbria University, the project will bring together experts from industry, academia and the public sector to create, test and bring to market new technologies involving 3D modelling, smart cities and cloud computing. This will help engineers to tackle potential problems before building has begun.

Trans-Mid (Nottingham): Led by the University of Nottingham, the project will partner universities with transport technology businesses, as well as local suppliers to the vehicle, aerospace and rail industries to develop new green products, with the aim of establishing the Midlands as a supercluster for net zero transport.

Suffolk and Norfolk Research and Innovation on the Sustainable Energy Coast (Suffolk and Norfolk): Led by the University of East Anglia, the project will build on the local strengths of the Suffolk and Norfolk Coast, to develop, test and deliver new solutions in clean energy, marine and aquaculture technologies, addressing technical and environmental challenges that inhibit the sustainable economic development of the southern North Sea.

To Deliver Data Driven Next Generation Healthcare from Whitechapel (London): led by Queen Mary University, the project will harness artificial intelligence and data technology to provide better healthcare for patients living in East London, specifically Whitechapel, where chronic health problems are significantly higher than the national average.

Transforming productivity in complex medicines (Cheshire and Warrington): led by the Medicines Discovery Catapult, and the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, the consortium aims to accelerate the development of a North West Complex Medicines cluster, by working with and supporting technology driven startups and spin outs in the Cheshire and Warrington regions.

Creative City + (Manchester): Led by Manchester Metropolitan University, the consortium aims to enhance local productivity through stimulating R&D activity to increase the knowledge, skills and expertise in the creative industries required to develop innovative products and services.

Accelerated Medicines Design and Development (Kent): Led by the Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network, the project aims to grow the Kent’s life science sector, through the development of a Medicines Design Studio in Sandwich.

South West Floating Offshore Wind Accelerator (Cornwall and Plymouth): Led by the offshore renewable energy research company, Wave Hub, this project will build on Cornwall and Plymouth’s excellence in offshore renewables business and research, to fast track the building of large-scale floating offshore wind farms in the Celtic Sea from 2025 onwards.

CW Creative Futures (Coventry and Warwickshire): Led by Coventry University, the project will build on the regions world leading “Silicon Spa” gaming cluster, home to over 50 games studios and 3,000 gaming businesses, harnessing the region’s unique skillset and infrastructure to create immersive products and services across new sectors such as automotive, advanced manufacturing and digital healthcare.

Midlands Advanced Ceramics for Industry 4.0 (Midlands): Led by the Lucideon Group, the project will work with the Midlands Industrial Ceramics Group, as well as local manufacturers and researchers to help establish the Midlands as a global leader in advanced ceramics, which are vital for UK manufacturing sectors including energy, healthcare, aerospace and defence.

Advanced Machinery & Productivity Institute (West Yorkshire and Lancashire): Led by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) the project will build on existing research capabilities across the North of England through the creation of the Advanced Machinery & Productivity Institute to provide a collaborative space for the design, development and manufacture of advanced machinery and robotic systems.

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