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20 April 2023

Royce kick-starts a National Strategy for Materials Innovation and Commercialisation

Today sees the launch of a Materials Innovation Strategy Framework consultation document which 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 are supported in commercialising their ground-breaking discoveries into game-changing products and services.

A summary document, Materials Futures: Growing the UK’s critical capabilities in materials innovation was also launched today to a hundred strong audience, at an Advanced Materials Showcase at the House of Commons. The Framework aligns with the ambitions of the  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,  pursuing the technologies that are most critical to achieving UK policy objectives.

The Henry Royce Institute (Royce) has facilitated this initial Framework document, the result of focused consultation, and designed to kick-start a National Strategy for Materials Innovation which is urgently needed to deliver a coherent approach across Government, industry and the wider materials technology community. This Strategy 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.

Royce is now seeking leaders from industry and key research organisations to become part of a Materials Innovation Strategy Group to  own the outputs and drive implementation plans, and to be part of an alliance for materials that will provide opportunities to collaborate, to work with Government and above all, to grow the materials innovation pipeline. Interested parties can submit an Expression of Interest final appointments will be made through an independent review process

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, Royce CEO said:

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.”

George Freeman Minister for Science, Research and Innovation said

“Advanced materials innovation is key to solving many of the most urgent UK & global challenges from reducing emissions to superfast computing, design and advanced manufacturing. That’s why we identified advanced materials as a key sector in the U.K. Innovation Strategy.  

Our Advanced materials sector generates c £14.4bn for the U.K. economy – all around the country.  By better connecting our labs, companies & clusters of excellence like the Henry Royce Institute we can enhance our global competitiveness, attract more industrial co/investment and accelerate commercial & industrial uptake of UK technology.”

The Showcase also saw speeches from Sir Peter Gregson, Royce Chair;  Pippa Sharma, Deputy Director Technology Strategy & Security, Department of Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT); Caroline Hargrove,  Chief Technology Officer, Ceres; Tim Denison, Depts of Engineering Science and Clinical Neuroscience, University of Oxford; Robert Sorrell, Royce Hydrogen Challenge Lead and David Knowles, Royce CEO.

This Strategy Framework has been developed with the support of IfM Engage and Urban Foresight. Feedback on the document can be submitted here.


Policy Drivers

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 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, 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 research 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; 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.


Next Steps

The Strategy process will build upon previous concerted efforts and outputs, however it will be particularly focussed on overcoming the weaknesses in the often lengthy commercialisation cycle of materials innovation through technology translation and will attempt to break down the barriers between both industry sectors and between research, development and commercialisation activities.

Under the direction of the proposed Materials Innovation Leadership Group this strategy framework will systematically prioritise, develop and articulate the innovation enablers that will deliver results for industry and the UK. The Materials Innovation Leadership Group will oversee the development and implementation of the strategy through to 2024. They will do so through a series of interconnecting processes, that answer the key questions of “why, what, and how” for UK materials innovation capabilities growth.

This strategy and its actions will continue to evolve into the future. The leadership group will continuously update it, reflecting the constantly developing nature of the UK’s materials innovation capabilities and ecosystem.