Funding for EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Large-Area Electronics

Four new research centres, that will develop new ways of manufacturing in the fields of electronics, laser use in production processes, medical devices and food production, have been awarded a total of £21 million Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) grant funding as part of a £45 million package of investments in manufacturing research announced today by David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science.

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.”

The new Centres, which will begin work later in the year, will involve academics from 15 universities across the UK and over 60 project partners from industry. EPSRC currently supports 12 centres across a wide range of fields, from Additive Manufacturing to Industrial Sustainability to Continuous Manufacturing and Crystallisation. These four new centres bring the total to 16. The centres are:

  • EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Large Area Electronics – led by Chris Rider at the University of Cambridge – starting October 2013. Grant value £5.6 million
  • EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Food – led by Dr Tim Foster at the University of Nottingham – starting September 2013. Grant value £4.5 million
  • EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Laser-based Production Processes – led by Professor Duncan Hand at Heriot-Watt University – starting October 2013. Grant value £5.6 million
  • EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Medical Devices – led by Professor John Fisher at the University of Leeds – starting October 2013. Grant value £5.7 million

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 research boundaries and drive growth.”

Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Large-Area Electronics

What is it?

Large-Area Electronics (LAE) is a branch of electronics in which functionality may be distributed over large-areas, much bigger than the dimensions of a typical circuit board. It is now possible to manufacture electronic devices and circuits using low-temperature processes that enable the use of flexible substrates such as plastic and paper. A notable example is the solution-based approach in which a ‘palette’ of functional ‘inks’ is printed on flexible webs to create the multi-layered patterns required to build up devices. These approaches are very different from the fabrication and assembly of conventional silicon-based electronics and offer the benefits of lower-cost manufacturing plants that can operate with reduced waste and power consumption, producing electronic systems in high volume with new form factors and features, such as flexibility, thinness and light weight. Examples of electronic devices made this way include new kinds of photovoltaics, lighting, displays, sensing systems and intelligent objects. It is also possible to add intelligence to everyday items that are currently printed, such as packaging, labels and signage.

What is the benefit for the UK?

The UK has been a pioneer in the field and is now poised for significant growth as basic technologies are moving towards pilot scale manufacturing in many UK LAE companies. Competition is also intense world-wide and it is important for the future of the UK industry that it can produce complete systems to meet early adopters’ needs. There are many young companies in the field, however, they often only have a strong capability in one ‘functional area’, such as light-emission or logic, for example, and end-users want complete systems with inputs, processing, output and power, especially in early market opportunities such as brand enhancement and intelligent packaging.

The Centre has a wide range of committed industrial partners including suppliers of materials, suppliers of process equipment, security printers, and manufacturers of LAE and end-users of LAE, while the four universities in the Centre have a combined network many times greater.

What will the Centre do?

The EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Large-Area Electronics will tackle the research challenges of scale-up and high-yield manufacture and testing of complete systems incorporating multiple functional elements to support the emergence of a vibrant UK manufacturing industry in the sector. An active outreach programme will also promote the adoption of LAE technologies by large end-users and the wider UK electronics manufacturing industry.

Who is in the Centre?

This Centre for Innovative Manufacturing brings together four UK academic Centres of Excellence in LAE at the University of Cambridge (Cambridge Integrated Knowledge Centre, CIKC), Imperial College London (Centre for Plastic Electronics, CPE), Swansea University (Welsh Centre for Printing and Coating, WCPC) and the University of Manchester (Organic Materials Innovation Centre, OMIC) to create a truly representative national centre with world-class expertise in design, development, fabrication and characterisation of a wide range of devices, materials and processes.

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