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Chemistry facility to boost small business innovation and manufacturing sectors

Story supplied by LU Press Office

The purpose-built facility will offer businesses managed access to a suite of cutting-edge instrumentation and facilities. The purpose-built facility will offer businesses managed access to a suite of cutting-edge instrumentation and facilities.

High-value manufacturing is to be bolstered by a new £11.3 million technology facility to be created by Lancaster University.

The Collaborative Technology Access Programme (cTAP) will include a purpose-built facility that will offer businesses managed access to a suite of cutting-edge instrumentation and facilities worth almost £7 million.

The new facility will sit alongside Lancaster's new Department of Chemistry and also include the provision of additional instrumentation to Lancaster's Department of Physics, currently ranked number one in the UK on the basis of the quality of its research.

An investment made in response to market demand assessment from advanced manufacturing companies in and beyond the North West, which included consultation with more than 100 SMEs and larger businesses, the facility will be constructed on Lancaster University's campus over the next 12 months and is set to open in autumn 2015.

Part-funded by £9,084,336 from the North West operational Programme for the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the cTAP facility will support advanced manufacturing SMEs and larger companies operating in, and inwardly investing into, the North West to develop new products and services by providing equipment and facilities that are currently inaccessible.

Instrumentation available for use by businesses through collaborative research programmes with the university will include: nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, worth £1.7 million; chromatography and mass spectrometry instruments, worth £1.5 million, and many other analytical and diagnostic instruments which are used for obtaining physical, chemical, electronic and structural information about molecules and materials; a molecular beam epitaxy machine, worth £1 million which is used to manufacture semiconductor devices; and a next generation 3D microprinting system with a range of applications including bioengineering.

Alongside wider university investment in Chemistry, Engineering and Physics, this instrumentation will provide companies with unparalleled access to expertise and facilities across the Lancaster campus, for the development, testing and manufacture of new chemicals, materials, semi-conductor devices and products.

Professor Andrew Atherton, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University, said: "A real barrier to innovation in the UK is the inability of fast-growing entrepreneurial businesses to access high-end specialist equipment. Access to the best manufacturing equipment is especially important for businesses in the North West, one of Britain's manufacturing and engineering hubs. Without specialist equipment, businesses can suffer delays in product development and improvements, leading to lost opportunities for business growth and job creation.

"Lancaster University is creating cTAP to support high-value manufacturing using specialist imaging and analytical techniques that improve, product design and performance. This facility will help local businesses to grow and will attract new companies to Lancashire to tap into the highest quality equipment and facilities."

Dr Terry Golding, Chief Executive Officer of Amethyst Research Inc, a US-based developer of advanced semi-conductor materials, said: "We are delighted at the news Lancaster has secured investment we had a role in supporting the case for.

"Innovation is central to Amethyst's success and this new investment is exactly the kind needed for overseas companies, such as ours, to realise our commercial objectives in the UK and Europe. We have a growing partnership with Lancaster University – with state of the art instrumentation and the highest quality academic expertise at its heart."

The three-floor building will provide more than 10,000 square feet of space to house facilities, including laboratory and write-up space, meeting accommodation and dedicated rooms for instrumentation.

Independent assessments underpinning the case for investment in the cTAP estimate that the investment will, via collaboration with business, enable Lancaster University to realise £90 million to £150 million in additional value to the economy over the next 15 years. It will also see the creation of more than 100 high-value jobs within SMEs.

North West England hosts the largest manufacturing sector in the UK generating £21 billion. There are 16,500 high value manufacturing companies in the North West, employing 400,000 people.

The cTAP facility is the latest investment by Lancaster University and follows more than £450 million of investments in the campus over the last ten years, with a further £135 million over the next three years.

Lancaster University has a nationally-leading reputation for working with UK SMEs. Since 1998, the university has worked with more than 5,000 SMEs to help provide economic growth. This year the university received a Gold Small Business Charter Award – one of only three nationally.

The publication of Sir Andrew Witty’s report in 2013 ‘Encouraging a British Invention Revolution’ identified Lancaster as a top university in terms of the number of interactions with SMEs. An external review of Lancaster’s ERDF projects revealed Lancaster boosted the economy by £15.8 for each pound received – almost double the national average of £8.7.

Businesses interested in working with Lancaster University can visit www.lancaster.ac.uk/sci-tech/business/ or www.lancaster.ac.uk/researchenterprise for more details.

Mon 18 August 2014