COLLABORATION

House cleaning robots & fish-saving tech: How the UK is spending its funding

SOURCE: Sven Hansche/Shutterstock
The UK government has placed collaboration and innovation at the very centre of their strategy.

The UK government has placed collaboration and innovation at the very centre of their strategy, banking on the flourishing of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and new technologies to help them ride the tumultuous post-Brexit wave.

Already among the top investors in research and development (R&D), the Conservative’s recent Industrial Strategy promised to up this spending to 2.4 percent of GDP by 2027. A big part of that spending goes towards the Prosperity Partnership projects, which bring UK universities and business together to develop new technologies to tackle some of the biggest issues of our time.

Last week, the government announced a new round of funding, putting £12 million (US$15 million) towards four future-shaping projects. The grant comes from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and is delivered by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Government funding is being matched by industry (£17.5 million) pushing the total up to £30 million to be spent across the four projects.

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There are some big names taking part in the new partnerships, including Dyson, GSK and BAE Systems, all hoping to innovate in their sector of expertise with the help of leading UK universities.

“Research and development is the cornerstone of our modern Industrial Strategy and we are spending record amounts to build on the strengths of this research base,” said Science Minister Chris Skidmore.

“Through it, we are committed to making sure the UK blazes a trail in innovating and capitalising on the opportunities presented by the global transition to cleaner, greener economies. The partnerships we’ve unveiled today will help us do just that.”

Aerospace experts BAE Systems are leading one of the new partnerships, alongside the University of Southampton, the University of Nottingham and Lloyd’s Register. The research will explore the development of new materials that don’t make noise underwater.

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Research has shown noise pollution can cut the life-expectancy of fish, dolphins and other marine life, while also affecting human health. This new project hopes to cut down on that by developing new materials to help protect this vulnerable marine life.

Dyson and Imperial College London will be working to bring the next generation of household-helpers to a living room near you. The partnership will use artificial intelligence (AI) to pave the way for robots to complete household tasks, such as cleaning and tidying.

A third Prosperity Partnership between the Universities of Nottingham and Strathclyde and pharmaceutical company GSK will accelerate research into the discovery of new medicines. According to a press release from Nottingham, the “research programme aims to enable the production of transformative medicines at lower costs with reduced waste production and shorter time for manufacture.”

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The final collaboration is led by Constellium and Brunel University and will focus on the development of fully recyclable ultra-high strength aluminum alloys for the automotive industry.

“These four Prosperity Partnership projects link the UK’s world-class research base to some of the country’s most successful industries. As these proposals were advanced by business, they will address challenges that are relevant to industry’s need but will also advance science and engineering,” said EPSRC’s Executive Chair, Professor Lynn Gladden.

“The value industry places on these collaborations is evident from the level of finance and resource committed in each of the partnerships.”