Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Manufacturing the future theme

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) invests in manufacturing research, drawing on emerging opportunities from across the engineering, physical, biological and mathematical sciences. It connects the research, innovation and business landscape.

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

The scope and what we're doing

EPSRC is pioneering a prosperous future for the UK by supporting the creation of new industries and jobs through innovative manufacturing businesses. Pioneering research led by EPSRC is crucial to the UK’s prosperity, helping ensure the economy is ready for future challenges and change.

Our research covers underpinning:

  • science
  • simulation and design
  • production
  • fabrication
  • systems
  • services.

It is helping drive the innovation in high-value manufacturing necessary for competitive aerospace, pharmaceutical and healthcare engineering sectors.

We are unique in supporting basic manufacturing research through to the stage where applications can be developed by companies or agencies such as Innovate UK and the Catapult Network.

Manufacturing the future strategy

The UK enjoys world leadership in established manufacturing industries such as aerospace, pharmaceuticals, electronics design and photonic technologies.

EPSRC plays a pivotal role in supporting these industries, enabling cutting-edge research and development of highly skilled people needed to support UK manufacturing innovation and underpin continued and sustainable growth.

The underpinning science and technology made possible by EPSRC support covers the entire manufacturing spectrum, to lead to successful processes and products including:

  • simulation
  • design
  • production
  • fabrication
  • systems
  • services.

Independent evaluations have shown the value of EPSRC manufacturing research to the UK economy and society more generally.

The challenge for the manufacturing the future area, which is managed as part of the Manufacturing and the Circular Economy theme, is to promote a richer, more productive dialogue between world-leading manufacturing research and industry partners, and to ensure innovative manufacturing businesses play a significant role in shaping the research and taking forward the outputs and outcomes.

Priorities

Our aim is to create and capture the benefits of research for UK manufacturing industries, thereby supporting UK productivity and prosperity.

We will do this by:

  • investing in new growth areas, drawing on opportunities from emergent research across the engineering and physical sciences
  • accelerating the impact of our investments by connecting the research and innovation landscape, promoting collaboration between academia and innovative manufacturing businesses
  • fostering a research community with the appropriate skills and leadership in manufacturing research.

We are seeking a balanced portfolio of long-term, speculative research, as well as research where the benefits and manufacturing outcomes are clearly evident.

Our approach

The strategy for the EPSRC manufacturing the future theme has been developed by working closely with other EPSRC research themes, academics, industry and the Manufacturing the Future Strategic Advisory team.

During 2018, we developed six priorities that describe how we see advances in engineering and physical sciences contributing to a productive, innovative, and competitive manufacturing sector in the UK.

These are:

  • responsive manufacturing
  • digital manufacturing
  • sustainability and function
  • precision made and scalable at cost
  • whole systems analysis
  • advanced bio and chemical products manufacture.

Key engagement activities

We regularly engage with the Manufacturing the Future Strategic Advisory team. The research priorities evolved from the theme’s previous research challenges and were developed in collaboration with the Manufacturing the Future Strategic Advisory team as well as through engagement with the research community, users and other funders.

The following activities and events occurred in late 2020 and 2021 to provide engagement opportunities with a variety of stakeholders:

  • EPSRC manufacturing community engagement activities conducted online
  • working with other EPSRC themes, notably the research infrastructure, circular economy and digital economy themes when developing funding opportunities targeting this theme’s priorities.

Early career forum in manufacturing research

In May 2012, EPSRC launched a call for expressions of interest for membership of a newly-constituted forum of early career academic researchers in the scope of the manufacturing the future challenge theme. The forum has been active ever since with refreshes occurring every 18 months.

Forum members have a strong focus on advancing the UK’s international reputation in manufacturing research, are open to developing interdisciplinary research agendas, and have an interest in participating in research policy development.

Research areas

You can find out more about:

Why we're doing it

We are investing in excellent manufacturing research to foster a research community with the appropriate skills and leadership in manufacturing research to support the manufacturing challenges faced by the UK in the future. We work in partnership with manufacturing businesses to shape the research we support, addressing the serious challenges they face to accelerate the impact of our investments.

The vision for the manufacturing the future theme is for the research we sponsor to help solve some of the most serious challenges facing the UK today, and in the future.

Manufacturing makes a major contribution to the UK economy but further investment is required, particularly in high-value and specialist manufacturing, underpinned by the research base.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Opportunities, support and resources available

Funding opportunities

Events

You can apply for funding to support an EPSRC research proposal in the area of manufacturing at any time under any open EPSRC scheme, including standard mode, programme grants and fellowships.

Standard (sometimes known as ‘responsive’) funding opportunities are open to a wide range of research and approaches within EPSRC’s remit.

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 theme connections and funding for manufacturing the future.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Past activities

Future formulation

Future formulation projects address challenges in formulation science that aim to develop and improve manufacturing processes for the production of complex structured products, based on interdisciplinary research in fundamental and applied science.

Manufacturing advanced functional materials

To capitalise on the strengths of the UK research base and the growing capacity in functional materials research, this activity addressed the manufacturing research challenges in developing applications, production technologies and future processes that incorporate advanced functional materials. It identified the most promising pathways for scale-up to applications and devices of these innovative materials.

Material substitution

The dynamic between product performance, economic factors (for example, production, system and whole life costs) and manufacturability has been critical to adoption of new materials technologies. This activity supported research that addressed the manufacturing challenges associated with novel replacements for materials that are scarce, difficult to source, expensive or deleterious to health and the environment.

Manufacturing engineering industrial doctorate centres

EPSRC-funded centres for doctoral training provide a supportive and exciting environment for students. Industrial doctorate is an alternative to the traditional PhD for students who want a career in industry.

ICT-enabled manufacturing – cross-disciplinary research clusters

This activity focused on cross-disciplinary research and networking activities to help new information and communication technologies (ICT) to transform future manufacturing.

Innovative manufacturing processes – flexible and reconfigurable manufacturing systems

These programmes of up to five years in length, addressed the challenge of flexible and reconfigurable manufacturing systems.

Manufacturing fellowships

The aim of these fellowships was to support those outstanding individuals in industry who wish to move into an academic career or for academics who have recently moved from industry into academia.

Who to contact

Ask a question about the manufacturing the future theme

For further information, contact the Manufacturing and the Circular Economy team.

Lydia Gardner, Joint Head of Manufacturing and the Circular Economy theme

  • theme lead
  • theme strategy

Email: lydia.gardner@epsrc.ukri.org
Telephone: 07925 149190

Lisa Coles, Joint Head of Manufacturing and the Circular Economy theme

  • theme lead
  • theme strategy

Email: lisa.coles@epsrc.ukri.org
Telephone: 07468 709621

Miriam Dowle, Senior Portfolio Manager

  • systems
  • Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund made smarter innovation

Email: miriam.dowle@epsrc.ukri.org
Telephone: 07825 734615

Judith McCann, Senior Portfolio Manager

  • NICER programme manager

Email: judith.mccann@epsrc.ukri.org
Telephone: 07710 147494

Mark Tarplee, Senior Portfolio Manager

  • production manufacturing

Email: mark.tarplee@epsrc.ukri.org
Telephone: 07795 121510

Laura Totterdell, Senior Portfolio Manager

  • process manufacturing

Email: laura.totterdell@epsrc.ukri.org
Telephone: 07714 840842

Tochukwu Ajare, Portfolio Manager

  • design
  • digital manufacturing
  • strategic advisory team convenor

Email: tochukwu.ajare@epsrc.ukri.org
Telephone: 07395 832113

Becky Cheesbrough, Portfolio Manager

  • biobased approaches
  • fellowships contact
  • programme grants contact

Email: rebecca.cheesbrough@epsrc.ukri.org
Telephone: 07849 300164

Naomi South, Portfolio Manager

  • materials
  • lead responsive mode contact

Email: naomi.south@epsrc.ukri.org
Telephone: 07513 484896

Stephanie Williams, Portfolio Manager

  • sustainability and circularity
  • early career forum contact

Email: stephanie.williams@epsrc.ukri.org
Telephone: 07546 513277

Ask a question about delivery support and peer review support

Teresa Andow, Delivery Support Administrator

Email: teresa.andow@epsrc.ukri.org

Michelle Todd, Delivery Support Manager

Email: michelle.todd@epsrc.ukri.org

Last updated: 17 October 2022

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