UK businesses and academia team up in cutting-edge research

Professor Jadu Dash and Dr Booker Ogutu in their lab in the School of Geography and Environmental Science at the University of Southampton, Southampton, 28 February 2023.

Nineteen projects will focus on quantum, medtech, energy and other sectors.

Projects include:

  • a new type of fibre optic cable that will increase the speed of data transmission by 50% (University of Southampton and Microsoft)
  • a new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner that will improve the diagnosis of lung diseases (The University of Sheffield and GE Healthcare)
  • a new type of knee replacement that will be more affordable and durable (University of Leeds and Invibio Ltd)
  • a new generation of air travel technologies that will help to decarbonise aviation (University of Bath and GKN)
  • robots to repair offshore energy systems (Heriot-Watt University and Fugro GB Marine)

Projects worth £149 million

The projects are worth a total of £149 million and are funded jointly by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), which is part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

£57 million of EPSRC funding was boosted by £4 million from UKRI’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Medical Research Council (MRC).

This public funding is being matched by a further £88 million from academia and business.

Making a real difference

These 19 projects are a significant investment in the UK’s future and are expected to make a real difference to people’s lives.

For example, the new fibre optic cable could be used to create a new generation of datacentres and optical networks that would enable ultrafast internet and cloud services.

The new MRI scanner could help to improve the diagnosis of lung diseases, such as lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

New knee replacement technology could bring benefit to people with osteoarthritis, a condition that affects millions of people in the UK.

A new generation of air travel technologies would help to decarbonise aviation and pave the airways for hydrogen-fuelled aircraft, reducing the environmental impact of air transport.

Industrial partners involved

Industrial partners include:

  • AstraZeneca
  • BAE Systems
  • BASF
  • GKN
  • Leonardo
  • QinetiQ
  • Rolls-Royce
  • Scottishpower Energy

Delivering economic and societal impact

Dr Andrew Bourne, Director of Partnerships at EPSRC said:

Prosperity Partnerships demonstrate how business and academia can come together to co-create and co-deliver research and innovation that address industry-driven challenges and deliver economic and societal impact.

These new projects showcase the breadth of research and innovation in the UK, covering a wider range of sectors, and support the UK’s ambitions to be a science superpower and an innovation nation.

Further information

About Prosperity Partnerships

This is the fifth round of Prosperity Partnership funding.

Read about previously funded projects.

Since 2017, when the initiative was launched, 66 EPSRC Prosperity Partnerships have received a total investment of £491 million:

  • £182 million invested by EPSRC
  • £8 million invested by MRC and BBSRC
  • £240 million committed by industry partners
  • £61 million committed by research organisations

EPSRC Prosperity Partnerships fund business-led research that arises from an industrial need, with the work being co-delivered and co-created between the business and academic partners. Prosperity Partnerships support excellent, world leading fundamental research that has clear benefit to the businesses involved, resulting in accelerated impact arising from the new knowledge, innovations or technologies.

Co-creation of the research programme is essential. EPSRC expects Prosperity Partnership projects to:

  • drive forward shared research challenges
  • demonstrate impact beyond the partners
  • provide benefits to the businesses involved

New Prosperity Partnership projects

Extending the clinical reach of MRI scanning through innovative low-field engineering and hyperpolarised xenon technology.

Institution: The University of Sheffield

Industrial partner: GE Healthcare

This Prosperity Partnership will focus on:

  • the development and integration of hardware and software needed to achieve clinically-useful lung MRI with hyperpolarised xenon technology on existing ‘high-field’ MRI systems
  • research into low-field MRI physics and engineering, and the development of hardware and software to demonstrate high-quality imaging at low-field strengths

Digital transformation of electromagnetic material design and manufacturing for future wireless connectivity (DREAM)

Institution: Queen Mary University of London

Industrial partner: QinetiQ

This Prosperity Partnership will develop future intelligent autonomous systems and robotic assisted lab automation by applying digital twins, immersive technologies, and next generation sensors using wireless technologies, software defined materials and machine learning.

It will help companies in the UK to refresh their technology portfolio and secure new business with greater international competitiveness.

MIniature Sensing and Timing with QUantum Enhancement (MISTIQUE)

Institution: University of Birmingham

Industrial partner: BAE Systems

Through a unique fusion of academic and industry expertise, the MISTIQUE project will accelerate the realisation of practical benefits of quantum sensors for society.

Utilising quantum sensing and timing, MISTIQUE addresses the need for accurate and resilient position, navigation and timing. MISTIQUE will lay the physics and engineering foundations for practical deployment in real-world settings and develop a new generation of suitably-skilled scientists and engineers with interdisciplinary skill-sets. This will drive quantum technology into to the heart of applications of national importance.

FASTNET: Revolutionary hollow core low-latency fibres and cables for ultrafast next-generation optical networks

Institution: University of Southampton

Industrial partner: Lumenisity Ltd

Scientists from the University of Southampton are partnering with Microsoft in FASTNET. This is a programme to mass-produce a revolutionary new type of fibreoptic cable that increases by 50% the speed at which data propagates around the globe.

The cables, which transmit information through an air hole rather than a glass-filled centre, will help create a new generation of datacentres and optical networks enabling ultrafast internet and cloud services.

Professor Francesco Poletti from Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre and partner researcher at Microsoft and all the co-investigators from both organisations have high confidence that this Prosperity Partnership will bring huge socio-economic benefits to the UK economy.

Developing a rule book for rational discovery of molecular glues for intractable targets

Institution: Francis Crick Institute

Industrial partner: AstraZeneca

Molecular glues bring together proteins that wouldn’t normally interact, so until recently they have generally been discovered by accident.

In the treatment of disease, they can orchestrate modification and degradation of disease-causing target proteins, by redirecting them to the cell’s natural waste disposal system.

Biobased and biodegradable polymers for a sustainable future

Institution: University of Nottingham

Industrial partner: Croda Europe Limited

Thickeners and emulsifiers are used in many day-to-day items. Each year, more than 36 million tonnes of these polymer liquid formulations are used.

Until now, there has been little coordinated effort to make these ingredients more environmentally friendly.

This partnership brings together researchers at Croda and the universities of Nottingham and York to develop novel, more sustainable, biobased and biodegradable alternatives.

Swansea TATA Research and Innovation Prosperity Partnership for Printed Perovskite PV (STRIPS)

Institution: Swansea University

Industrial partner: Tata Steel UK

STRIPS is a collaboration between Swansea University and Tata Steel to develop printed solar cells on steel products such as roofing. The project brings together expertise in printed solar cells with an industrial partner capable of delivering significant material volume and routes to market.

STRIPS aims to do more with the 75M2 of steel building cladding produced each year in the UK by adding an additional step to the manufacturing process to create energy generating coated steel.

Advanced Research into Crystallographic Anisotropy & Nucleation Effects in single crystals (ARCANE)

Institution: University of Birmingham

Industrial partner: Rolls-Royce plc

Hybrid electrification of flight is critical to realising a sustainable future for aviation and, through high value manufacturing the UK, working with Rolls-Royce, can make this a reality.

Cast superalloy single crystal components define modern aeroengine performance and are key to the success of electrification because of their astonishing strength at high temperatures.

New material and process models will help realise unsurpassed levels of efficiency, harnessing the unusual properties of single crystals and enabling ever more complex component designs to become reality.

Prosperity Partnership in Innovative Continuous Manufacturing for Industrial Chemicals (IConIC)

Institution: Imperial College London

Industrial partner: BASF

Like the 20th century introduction of production lines to car manufacturing, flow chemistry, a continuous production technique for manufacturing specialty chemicals such as pharmaceuticals, will enable:

  • greater automation
  • more consistent products
  • more efficient use of materials and energy

A consortium that includes Imperial College London, chemical company BASF, and other organisations from across the chemical value chain, will design innovative flow chemistry processes for research and development labs and high-value manufacturing. In so doing the partners are working to help grow a high-tech sustainable chemical sector in the UK and worldwide.

PEEK-OPTIMA as a platform for natural total knee replacement

Institution: University of Leeds

Industrial partner: Invibio Ltd

Our Prosperity Partnership is set to revolutionise total knee replacement. Advanced materials technologies and enhanced preclinical simulation methods will be developed for an affordable all-polymer joint that fixes securely into bone and minimises wear.

ENSIGN: ENergy System dIGital twiN

Institution: University of Strathclyde

Industrial partner: Scottishpower Energy Networks

This partnership will create an Integrated Energy System-Digital Twin (IES-DT) to facilitate reliable, resilient, affordable, low-carbon, multivector energy systems of the future.

IES-DT will create the knowledge, visibility and applications that are urgently required for:

  • accurate and informed decision-making
  • risk management
  • various other functions that will be required for effective planning, design and operation of future energy systems

Smart biomanufacturing for genomic medicines

Institution: University College London (UCL)

Industrial partner: Pall Eu Smart biomanufacturing for genomic medicines rope

Pall and UCL Biochemical Engineering are combining their globally-leading expertise to address the challenges of manufacturing revolutionary genomic medicines. These therapies are made possible by the delivery of genetic molecules to the site of disease to control protein production in cells and tissue.

The partnership will improve patient access to these transformative therapies and establish manufacturing innovation in a high-growth sector that will result in societal and economic impact.

Inertial fusion energy: optimising high energy density physics in complex geometries

Institution: Imperial College London

Industrial partner: First Light Fusion

Fusion has transformational potential as a safe, clean, and abundant energy source if fusion conditions, which require intense heat and pressure, can be created at scale.

UK company First Light Fusion is developing a new technique judged promising by scientists. A very high velocity projectile is fired at a target specially designed to concentrate the resulting shockwaves enough to produce fusion, and release a huge amount of energy that could be harnessed by a power station.

A partnership between First Light, three universities (Imperial College London, Oxford, and York) and Machine Discovery will explore the extreme conditions created in this novel approach.

Centre for Robotic Autonomy in Demanding and Long-lasting Environments (CRADLE)

Institution: The University of Manchester

Industrial partner: Jacobs (UK)

CRADLE will research new technologies for demanding and heavily regulated industry sectors such as space, nuclear decommissioning, energy generation and urban infrastructure.

Smart Products Made Smarter

Institution: Heriot-Watt University

Industrial partner: Leonardo UK Ltd

Smart Products Made Smarter is a Prosperity Partnership project led by Heriot-Watt University with the University of Edinburgh and aerospace company Leonardo.

The project’s vision is to completely change the way high-value, low-volume remote sensing systems are developed, from concept to production.

The project involves a fusion of different computational imaging technologies; innovative manufacturing using digital modelling and individual artificial intelligence and robotics support to multiply the output of highly-skilled production and maintenance personnel.

UNderwater IntervenTion for offshore renewable Energies (UNITE)

Institution: Heriot-Watt University

Industrial partner: Fugro GB Marine Ltd

UNITE is a Prosperity Partnership project led by Heriot-Watt University with partners Imperial College London and Fugro, a major offshore services provider.

The project’s vision is to develop a holistic solution to maintain and repair offshore wind farms, using autonomous and semi-autonomous underwater systems that are remotely monitored from shore and safely operated worldwide.

UNITE’s research programme aims to reduce the use of crewed support vessels and keep offshore turbines more productive, with less downtime and more timely and cost-effective maintenance and repair.

Zero-Emission: the Next-generation of Integrated Technology for Hydrogen storage (ZENITH)

Institution: University of Bath

Industrial partner: GKN Aerospace

ZENITH will deliver the future generation of air travel technologies, addressing the interdisciplinary challenges associated with the decarbonisation of aviation, working with industrial partner GKN Aerospace.

We will engage a team of:

  • researchers
  • GKN engineers
  • academics from:
    • mechanical engineering
    • chemical engineering
    • chemistry
    • mathematical sciences

Together, they will tackle the fundamental problems associated with the material science, manufacture, and structural integrity of hydrogen-fuelled aircraft.

Innovative material, processes and devices for low power flexible electronics: creating a sustainable internet of everything

Institution: University of Bath

Industrial partner: PragmatIC Semiconductor

High-performance flexible electronics are set to revolutionise society by providing cost-effective routes to sustainable, low power electronics, compatible with plastics, textile and paper substrates.

The partnership between Pragmatic Semiconductor and the universities of Bath (chemistry) Liverpool (materials) and Cambridge (engineering) harnesses world-leading expertise in design, development and fabrication of the next generation of electronics in the UK.

The more than £5.9 million partnership provides a concerted and cohesive research program. It is designed to provide a sustainable ‘off-the-shelf’ thin-film semiconductor technology that can be readily integrated into the production line of flexible electronics. This will enable the creation of a sustainable internet of everything that will deliver economic growth and create jobs across the UK.

Transforming the future use of injectable medicines outside the hospital: increasing capacity in the NHS

Institution: University of Bath

Industrial partner: QPHL and Corsham Science Ltd

This project aims to create a platform that will transform the future use of injectable medicines in the UK and globally, significantly increasing capacity within the NHS.

We envisage, ultimately, a range of optimised injectable medicines suited to the setting in which they are administered, whether in the community or a hospital. This will be manufactured through an automated process dramatically reducing the demand placed on healthcare resource required to administer them in the most appropriate setting.

Top image:  Credit: UK Research and Innovation

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