Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Microsystems

Microsystems is a broad spectrum of underpinning micro-engineering research aimed at developing novel miniaturised micro-structured devices.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

This area encompasses a broad spectrum of underpinning micro-engineering research aimed at developing a diverse range of novel miniaturised micro-structured devices, including microfluidic, microelectromechanical and micro-fabricated devices. This research can be of a generic nature or focused on the development of a specific device targeted at a particular end use.

Microsystems can be key enabling technologies, with applications found in almost every industrial field.

Our aims for this research area are set out below.

Networking and collaboration

A well networked microsystems community which facilitates collaboration and knowledge sharing across the field and with other disciplines. We will work with the community to explore options for better networking and increased leadership, to exploit opportunities, identify new directions and ensure maximum research impact.

Research and applications work

A portfolio delivering a balance of underpinning research and applications-driven work. We will work with the community to enable fundamental microsystems research less driven by a specific application, with a particular focus on creative and ambitious research.

Support for early career researchers

A research field that attracts a healthy supply of early career researchers and enables and supports their careers. We will work with the community to facilitate development at the early career stage to ensure future capability and to develop the leaders of the future.

Research with impact

Research investments which demonstrate strong pathways to impact and deliver economic, societal and academic impact. Researchers are particularly encouraged to consider how their work may deliver increased impact through co-creation, collaboration and knowledge sharing across the diverse strands of the microsystems research field.

Microscale systems, sensors and devices, and machines workshop

On 9 May 2022, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) brought together members from across the microsystems research community for the Microscale Systems, Sensors and Devices, and Machines Workshop.

The workshop sought to:

  • define the current state of the discipline’s research ecosystem
  • identify future opportunities,
  • develop a greater understanding of the support needed across the microsystems ecosystem to ensure the area delivers maximum impact

EPSRC is pleased to release the workshop report which contains of details the outcomes of the workshop and combines them with pre-existing EPSRC research. The final section of the report highlights potential future pathways and interventions that the community feels would be of benefit to supporting microsystems research.

The document is intended to capture the current perceptions of the community. EPSRC acknowledges that this is therefore just 1 document in an ongoing journey to understand the microsystems community as it continues to evolve and the landscape changes. Recipients of this report are encouraged to engage with EPSRC going forward when opportunities arise.

Read the microscale systems, sensors and devices, and machines workshop report.

Why we're doing it

This research area is relatively small within the EPSRC portfolio, and dominated by applications-driven research with a strong healthcare focus, reflecting the UK’s strength in the area.

The microsystems field and associated community are diverse, with researchers responding to new challenges, application areas and research directions. Researchers often align themselves with a specific application area rather than to a broader microsystems community, which can result in a level of community fragmentation.

There is no strong sense of a microsystems community; common interest groups, networks and strong leadership are not evident. Early stage community led discussions seeking options for better networking are, however, in progress.

There is a perception of a lack of new researchers entering the area; certainly, numbers of EPSRC first grants are low. We have opened Microsystems as a fellowship area across all career stages, but this has been met with low uptake.

The microsystems community has a history of strong industrial collaboration and partnership, particularly for applications-driven research. Fundamental microsystems research, less driven by application, has the potential to increase the underpinning science and engineering knowledge base and have a broad impact across the breadth of microsystems research. Recent years, though, have seen a decline in fundamental microsystems research.

The varied nature of microsystems research is reflected in the broader EPSRC portfolio, with researchers funded by a number of themes and across a number of associated research areas. The area is intrinsically interdisciplinary, drawing on and contributing to much of our remit. Notable links are to Clinical Technologies, Sensors and Instrumentation, Fluid Dynamics and Aerodynamics, Complex Fluids and Rheology, Microelectronic Device Technology, Continuum Mechanics, and Quantum Devices, Components and Systems, with emerging links to Synthetic Biology.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for microsystems.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Who to contact

Last updated: 3 January 2023

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