Posted: January 8, 2010

Southampton photonics centre wins part of GBP70 million boost for UK manufacturing

(Nanowerk News) Business Secretary Lord Mandelson today announced government investment of £70 million in a series of state-of-the-art manufacturing research centres across the UK, one of the first of which is to be at the University of Southampton.
The new EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) centres will assist UK businesses in developing the technology products of the future and help underpin the country’s manufacturing growth.
The Southampton centre will focus on photonics, the science and application of light using optical fibres to revolutionise the internet and telecommunications. Other centres at the universities of Loughborough and Brunel will concentrate on regenerative medicine and liquid metals.
The University of Southampton’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Don Nutbeam, said: “UK universities conduct much of the research that underpins innovation in this country. This innovation, and its translation into practical outcomes, strengthens the ability of UK industry to compete globally.
“The University of Southampton has an excellent track record for working successfully with industry, and developing sustainable partnerships across a wide range of sectors.”
The EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Photonics at the University of Southampton will work with industry to develop the next generation of fibre materials and technology platforms, train a new generation of engineers and fuel growth in photonics-related manufacturing.
Investment from EPSRC in the centre will total £4.7 million over a five-year period starting in March 2010. Thirteen industrial partners will contribute a further £4.6 million.
Professor David Payne, Director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) at the University of Southampton, commented: "Photonics at Southampton has benefited from sustained EPSRC funding over the last 40 years and has made a huge impact on areas as diverse as the internet, laser manufacturing, environmental sensing and the biosciences.
“With strong support from our local photonics cluster of ten companies and from companies throughout the UK, we welcome the opportunity to enhance our contributions to UK economic growth through this new initiative in Innovative Manufacturing Centres.”
Vice-Chancellor, Professor Don Nutbeam, added: “The technology that drives the internet was developed here at Southampton. Every time you use a mobile phone or an ATM you are again using technology developed at Southampton. But these innovations didn't happen overnight. It took long-term commitment and funding from the EPSRC and other funding agencies for the university-based research that led to this transforming technology.
“Sustained investment in university research, together with the enterprise culture that is evident at the University of Southampton, can deliver substantial economic returns.”
Announcing the launch of the centres, Lord Mandelson said: “A highly skilled, innovative manufacturing sector will be a vital part of Britain’s future economic growth. The £70 million funding I’m announcing today will see universities and businesses working together to pull through academic research to commercial products. With more investment to bring these two sectors together we can strengthen our future innovation and growth.”
Professor David Delpy, chief executive of EPSRC, which is the UK’s largest government agency for scientific research and skills, said: “EPSRC’s new manufacturing centres will focus on areas of pioneering research that has the potential to create new industries and new jobs for the UK.”
He continued: “They will save lives through advances in regenerative medicine, develop recycled forms of metal which are environmentally friendly, and harness light to revolutionise the internet and telecommunications.”
Source: University of Southampton