Royce brings together materials community for first national conference

The Henry Royce Institute hosted its largest event to date on 22-23 March 2021. Over 1200 delegates registered to attend the national conference, with a programme of 130 speakers covering the broad spectrum of materials science.

The conference was opened by Royce CEO, Professor David Knowles and Chief Scientist, Professor Philip Withers who explored the Institute’s journey to date and outlined the vision to develop advanced materials for a sustainable society with challenge led materials research, as Royce transitions into its operational phase.

Day 1 focused on Royce’s current research activities with parallel sessions on the core research areas and cross cutting themes; ‘Imaging and Characterisation’ and ‘Materials Modelling’. Highlights included an introduction to the new National X-ray Computed Tomography research facility and a panel session with leading biomedical materials researchers and clinicians for tissue engineering with speakers from the University of Glasgow, AMBER, University College London and more.

Click here to view the full conference programme and the Day 1 conference sessions are available here.

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On day 2, the conference took an outward-facing focus with three keynote speakers giving perspectives on ‘UK materials research priorities’ in the context of net-zero, government policy, and commercialisation. The Baroness Brown of Cambridge, Chair of the Henry Royce Institute and Chair of the Climate Change Committee’s Adaptation Committee explored how materials science is a key enabler in meeting net-zero targets, through decarbonising foundation industries, developing low-carbon steel production and creating a viable hydrogen economy.

Professor Paul Monks, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy then presented on ‘Linking scientific research and strategic government policy – delivering a symbiotic relationship’. The final conference keynote, Dr Tony Soteriou, Director of Commercialisation at UK Research and Innovation, discussed the importance of commercialising research for UK prosperity.

Following a morning of keynotes, Royce welcomed senior figures from academic, industrial, commercialisation and policy roles to take part of a panel discussion on ‘Translating academic research developments in materials into business’. The Baroness Brown of Cambridge was joined by Sinead Lynch, Chair of Shell UK; Annalisa Gigante, Royce Governing Board Member; Dr Richard Price, Co-founder of PragmaTIC; Sophie Walton, Director of Strategic Partnership at CPI and Dr JT Jannsen, Chief Scientist at NPL. The panel discussed what industry requires from academic research organisations to support innovation, with scientific expertise and collaboration opportunities proving most critical.

Next up, Royce welcomed guest presenters from the UKRI Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Hub who provided an overview of the newly founded centres based across the UK. Representatives from each centre took part in a panel session on system-level enablers for a circular economy in the Textiles, Construction, Metals, Electronics and Chemicals sectors.

The conference culminated with parallel sessions on national materials challenges and roadmapping. Since December 2020, Royce has convened the UK materials community to develop roadmapping and landscape documents in four challenges including Materials for End-to-End Hydrogen, Materials for Fusion, Degradation of Structural Materials for Net Zero, and Materials 4.0. As part of the conference programme, the project champions provided an update on the roadmapping activities and held discussions to feed in to the final documents. You can find out more about Royce’s roadmapping and landscaping activities here and the final documents are scheduled to be published in April 2021.

In addition to the roadmapping sessions, Prof Michael Shaver, Royce’s lead for sustainable materials hosted a session on Sustainable Plastics and Packaging.  This explored initiatives taking place within the Institute such as the Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub and further afield including The University of Sheffield’s ‘Many happy returns’ and Unilever’s approach to sustainable packaging.

Commenting on the success of the conference, Prof David Knowles said;

We are delighted that the conference attracted many people across the landscape who have not yet engaged with Royce. As a national institute, we operate to serve the whole materials community from academia and industry. This is just the beginning of our collaborative journey with many of the delegates and we hope that the conference offered something for everyone over the two days.

The Day 2 conference sessions are available here.

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Future activities

Over the next 12 – 18 months Royce’s engagement activities will focus on broadening the communities for our core research areas and national materials challenges, as well as supporting the Materials Research Exchange in 2022. We will then bring this materials community back together again in 2023 for the next Henry Royce Institute Conference.

To stay up to date on all Royce’s future activities, sign-up to the mailing list here.