WHY DO WE NEED A MATERIALS INNOVATION STRATEGY?
In 2023 Royce is promoting and supporting the development of a National Materials Innovation Strategy.
A national strategy for materials innovation is needed to deliver a coherent approach across Government, industry and the wider materials technology community.
Materials underpins manufacturing, and the UK is one of the largest global manufacturing nations, contributing £203 billion every year to GVA and supporting 5 million jobs. 84% of this manufacturing takes place outside of London and the South East. The importance of materials to the UK economy is clear.
The Materials Innovation Strategy Framework is aimed at ensuring the UK has a world-leading position in rapidly expanding materials markets, substantially enhancing the value of some of the largest UK- based industries and ensuring materials science researchers and innovators are supported in commercialising translating their ground-breaking discoveries into game-changing products and services.
Materials Futures: Growing the UK’s critical capabilities in materials innovation is the consultation document for this work which was launched at an Advanced Materials Showcase at the House of Commons. It aligns with the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology’s (DSIT) new Science and Technology Framework, which sets out the key actions needed to secure strategic advantage through science and technology, identifying and pursuing the technologies that are most critical to achieving UK policy objectives.
Royce has facilitated this initial Framework document, designed to kick-start a National Strategy for Materials Innovation which will identify and prioritise high-potential areas where materials innovation can make an impact in creating new and significant forms of value while addressing national priorities.
Materials underpins manufacturing, and the UK is one of the largest global manufacturing nations, contributing £203 billion every year to GVA and supporting 5 million jobs. 84% of this manufacturing takes place outside of London and the South East. The importance of materials to the UK economy is therefore clear.
Professor David Knowles
“As the UK’s national institute for advanced materials Royce is pleased to facilitate this important strategy development work, which recognises that our national materials innovation capabilities are a significant asset and a strategic approach to managing them is therefore essential in ensuring the UK is the most effective exploiter of materials innovation in the world. More than ever materials innovation has to be accelerated in the UK if it is going to deliver against the needs of major challenges such as net zero, health improvements, sustainable use of resources and, of course, underpin a robust economy.
“We know that the UK leads the way in materials R&D, however it does lag other countries in its ability to translate all that effort and commercialise new and improved materials. Today is a “Call To Arms” particularly to industry leaders around the UK to join forces with us to develop a focussed strategy designed to ensure we urgently expedite the translation of this research into new products and services.”
A Strategic Framework for Materials Innovation support the scoping, definition and appropriate grouping of:
- National and industrial sector priorities including trends and drivers, market needs and industrial sectors
- Key application and process developments to which materials innovation can contribute via value-creation opportunities
- Materials innovations to support these applications and processes and further highlight needs for cross-sector collaborations
- The associated non-technological supporting enablers
In addition, mapping the main elements of supply and value chains for key markets will enable the identification of value-creation opportunities and key material innovations that generate the most economic, societal and environmental value.
The framework has been designed to be used in a series of sequential steps. Multiple priority value creation opportunities can be explored and analysed in parallel enabling numerous cross-sector insights and actions to emerge.
As the sequence is followed, consolidation of the outputs will aggregate key materials innovations, recommendations and actions so that industry, academia and policymakers may act in a coordinated fashion, thus addressing the need for the materials community to “speak with one voice.” The process of applying the framework has six key steps:
1. Cross-sectoral clustering of the national materials innovation scene for engagement and deeper analysis
2. Identification of national priorities for the relevant economic, social, and environmental trends and drivers for new and emerging materials developments
3. Identification of high-priority cross-sector opportunities for detailed exploration and development – a combination of both 1 and 2
4. Identification and assessment of the materials innovation contribution to each opportunity area, including associated risks and uncertainties in the opportunity workstreams
5. Confirmation of cross-sector priorities and identification of associated enabling actions required by the opportunity workstreams
6. Strategy consolidation including overall recommendations and actions
The key associated gaps, barriers, enablers and interfaces in technology translation and commercialisation will be considered. Ultimately, the strategy should provide recommendations for:
1. Funding and other support for the commercialisation and translation of materials capabilities; technologies, and know-how, to support the acceleration of the materials commercialisation cycle. It is also possible that new areas of materials research are signalled to existing funding bodies.
2. Encouraging the development of investment vehicles including public-private partnerships may bridge the gap between basic research and commercialization, and can lead to the development of new materials.
3. Providing incentives for companies to invest in new materials innovation and adoption. This can include tax credits, grants, and other forms of financial support to help offset the costs of research and development. In addition, the government can provide regulatory incentives to encourage the adoption of new materials in key industries.
4. Supporting education and training programmes in materials science and engineering. The development of a skilled workforce in materials science and engineering is critical to the success of a national materials innovation strategy.
The Materials Innovation Strategy Development will use a top-down process and will be underpinned by a system-wide perspective of the whole materials ecosystem. This process will prioritise material innovations which will deliver maximum benefit for the country, with the following key Policy drivers:
Getting to net zero: the creation and use of materials technologies that lower greenhouse gases – for example Anodes and conductive membranes for batteries and fuel cells enabling the scaling of renewable energy sources.
Growing a high-wage, highly skilled workforce: the fostering of productive industries that provide employment and drive the development of new skills – for example developing new competencies for the computational management of material lifecycles (Materials 4.0) accelerating material discovery and manufacture.
Strengthening the UK as a global technology leader: extending our world-leading capabilities in research, development, innovation and commercialisation; for example next-generation low energy loss electronic materials which will drive a transition to much more energy-efficient information and communications devices.
Rebalancing the UK economy: winning investment for growth across the regions through the application of research and the commercialisation or scaling of solutions, for example sustainable fibre composite materials enabled through SME-pioneered recycling processes, stimulating regional growth.
Supporting national resilience and security: maintaining a technology-enabled national security capability and building resilience to global supply chain disruptions, for example quantum computing, enabled by high-temperature superconductors, improving positioning technologies for autonomous aircraft.
Enabling healthy, happy lives: delivering healthcare and creating a built environment that supports a thriving population, for example biocompatible implants and regenerative materials for vascular tissue healing and replacement.
Stage 2 focuses on the development of a National Strategy for Materials Innovation, building on the Framework developed in Stage 1, underpinned by a broad consultation process and supported by Government, including the Department for Science Innovation and Technology (DSIT).
The Strategy development is owned and directed by the new Materials Innovation Leadership Group.
The focus for the Strategy is innovation and technology translation against national need: while materials research is an acknowledged UK strength, we recognise the need to be much better at linking the science to commercial reality.
The aim of the Strategy is to identify opportunities and stimulate measures which close this gap and ensure that the UK is a front runner in embedding materials innovation into our manufacturing sectors such as transport, digital, energy, building and health.