£41 million to enhance UK research and innovation clusters

Two people in an electronics lab

From net zero buildings to agri-tech and semiconductors to photonics, 10 new projects will boost UK economic growth and address regional needs.

The projects will combine some of the country’s leading engineering and physical sciences research with the ambitions of civic bodies and local business to enhance different regions’ economic capability.

Over the next four years, they will help established research and innovation clusters expand and emerging clusters develop and realise their potential.

The projects are led by consortia spread across the UK and are funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Vast potential for our local economies

Science minister George Freeman said:

The UK is already home to clusters of world-class science and technology talent, bringing together top universities, cutting-edge research institutes and enterprising businesses of all sizes and it is crucial we channel these hubs of scientific advance and growth to level up our country.

From skilling up South Wales and Central Scotland with hundreds of jobs in semiconductors and photonics, to boosting the North-West of England’s biotechnology sector and trebling the economic return for the region, our £41m investment will help enhance these clusters’ vast potential for the good of our local economies and the wider country.

Driving regional economic growth

Professor Miles Padgett, Interim Executive Chair at EPSRC, said:

I’m pleased to announce our first ten Place Based Impact Acceleration Accounts which will play a unique role in enhancing the capabilities of innovation clusters across the UK.

A key priority for UKRI is to strengthen clusters and partnerships in collaboration with civic  bodies and businesses, thereby driving regional economic growth.

Flexible funding

EPSRC has awarded the consortia leading the 10 projects a total of £41 million through a new scheme called Place Based Impact Acceleration Account (PBIAA). Project partners have committed a further £7.8 million.

The awards provide research organisations with flexible funding enabling them to drive impacts from their research portfolio through a wide range of activities.

Each consortium focuses on a scientific theme in engineering and physical sciences research and targets a specific geographical area to support the expansion or development of a research and innovation cluster.

Benefitting regional and local economies

The projects will bring short and long-term benefits to regional and local economies and communities including new jobs, skills development, private investment, growth of small and medium enterprises , and more.

They also support the government’s levelling up agenda creating an opportunity for academics and civic actors to collaborate and support the development of local industry and places.

Projects will commence at the end of 2023 or the start of 2024. Round two of EPSRC’s PBIAA scheme will launch late October 2023.

Further information

The projects

Greater Lincolnshire and North Cambridgeshire (LINCAM) region agricultural technologies (agri-tech) cluster project

Led by the University of Lincoln, the agri-tech cluster project aims to make the LINCAM region an agri-tech gateway for the world.

This will enable the development of technologies at commercial scale and provide export opportunities for agri-tech companies and inward investment opportunities within both the agri-tech and primary production sectors.

Key regional partners are civic society and an industry sector that supports 88,000 jobs, generates a gross added value of £3.8 billion and farms over 50% of the UK’s grade one agricultural land.

EPSRC investment: £4.9 million.

Northern Net Zero Accelerator: energy systems integration for a decarbonised economy

Based in North East England, Teesside and the Humber the Northern Net Zero Accelerator is led by Newcastle University.

It will make, collate and translate knowledge from research on net zero technologies, policy, energy and industrial systems to deliver impact in partnership with regional industry, civic bodies and the third sector.

This will ensure a strong economy, and an improved environment, which is fair, and creates inclusive opportunities.

EPSRC investment: £5 million.

The Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Cluster project

This project is based in West England and is led by The University of Manchester.

It will apply cross-disciplinary technologies that use biological resources for producing and processing everyday products such as food, fuels, and medicines, to meet urgent societal needs.

This PBIAA is expected to:

  • directly stimulate £2.5 million cash and £4 million in-kind co-investment
  • establish 150 collaborative projects
  • train 200 plus students to enter careers within industrial biotechnology
  • create up to 100 green jobs
  • establish more than 20 new commercial ventures attracting a further £10 million in investment to the North West, generating as a minimum 3 to 1 economic return to public investment over the medium term

EPSRC investment: £4.9 million.

The Park Royal Net Zero programme

The Park Royal Net Zero programme is based at the Park Royal Industrial area. Park Royal is one of the largest employment sites in the UK, with 1,700 businesses, employing 40,000 people, 5.3% of West London’s workforce, and producing 30% of London’s food.

The programme will be led by Brunel University London and will work with food and drink businesses to develop and implement strategies to address the challenges they face with energy, waste, and productivity.

This will reduce carbon cost, improve resilience and drive economic growth in the food supply systems passing through Park Royal.

EPSRC investment: £2.5 million.

PBIAA in Photonic Technologies in Scotland’s Central Belt

The UK photonics industry has a turnover of £14.5 billion, employs 77,000 people, and contributes £85,000 of gross value added per employee.

Led by the University of Glasgow, this project will develop the technologies, skills and innovation culture that will catalyse accelerated growth in photonics.

Photonics is the hidden technology of light that underpins the economic prosperity and wellbeing of modern society, from communications, through manufacturing to medicine.

EPSRC investment: £4.7 million.

The South Wales Compound Semiconductor Place Based Impact Accelerator (PBIA)

The UK has a strong and vibrant compound semiconductor manufacturing capability with world-leading companies, centred on South Wales called the South Wales Compound semiconductor cluster.

The South Wales Compound Semiconductor PBIA will be led by Cardiff University. It  will address the shortage of skilled staff which is the biggest single factor limiting the growth of the South Wales semiconductor cluster. It will do this by:

  • upskilling staff in existing companies with high-level, specialist, practical skills
  • training new entrants to the compound semiconductors workforce
  • inspiring a greater number of entrants to the workforce

EPSRC investment: £4.1 million.

Great Western Supercluster of Hydrogen Impact for Future Technologies (GW-SHIFT)

GW-SHIFT is based in Southwest England and South Wales and is led by the University of Bath.

It will drive a place-based supercluster across South West England and South Wales, accelerating the impact of research and innovation in low carbon hydrogen and contributing to securing the UK’s net zero 2050 target.

GW-SHIFT will enable key government strategies and targets for a low carbon hydrogen future, including:

  • Powering Up Britain and British Energy Strategy targets for 10 gigawatts of hydrogen production capacity by 2030
  • 100,000 new jobs
  • £13 billion gross value added by 2050

EPSRC investment: £2.5 million.

The SWITCH to Net Zero Buildings

This project is based in the Swansea Bay City Region (SBCR) and is led by Swansea University.

It will enable flexible and agile deployment of resources to unblock barriers to adoption of net zero buildings in the region, with economic benefits felt replicable in other regions.

It will also enable collaborative projects with non-consortium partners across the UK.

The PBIAA will:

  • demonstrate the economic impacts of net zero policies, leading to growth of sustainable regional supply chains and diversification and integration with existing local industries
  • support the SBCR Homes as Power Stations project, which has a projected £251 million gross value added uplift, creating over 1800 skilled jobs and £490 million investment leveraged from public and private sectors over 15 years

EPSRC investment: £5 million.

Accelerating Impact of Community healthCarE in Tayside (AICCET)

AICCET is based in Tayside and is led by Heriot-Watt University.

It will target health inequality in Tayside by helping to move all stages of the patient journey closer to the community through the development of technologies which address challenges in diagnosis, treatment planning and care delivery.

The AICCET consortium has gathered 14 organisations (five universities, a further education college, five civic bodies, one hospital and two NHS organisations) in the Tayside region to address the challenges of community healthcare.

EPSRC investment: £2.5 million.

Innovating medical technologies across the Yorkshire region

This project is based in West and South Yorkshire and is led by the University of Leeds.

It will support the translation of university research in medical technologies into new clinical products and services, helping grow the regional economy.

It will help drive regional economic growth, with new innovations being adopted by regional industry, creating high value jobs and unlocking private sector investment in research and development, supporting a projected £3 billion per year industry beyond 2035.

EPSRC investment: £5 million.

Top image:  Credit: EPSRC

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