By Dr Nafees Meah, Director, RCUK India
Manufacturing is undergoing a renaissance in Britain. It may come as a surprise to some, but the UK is at the leading edge of research and innovation in manufacturing technologies. The UK is also at the forefront of research and development on how we can transform our energy systems, in particular, electricity generation and distribution systems, to be more efficient and low-carbon.
High-value manufacturing processes are increasingly moving towards flexible, intelligent production systems that involve the inter-play of novel technologies, advanced materials and precision engineered products and systems. Modern manufacturing is more than merely production – it encompasses R&D, design, prototyping, production, distribution, service and supports provision, and end-of-life repair, recycle or reuse. The objective of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Manufacturing the Future challenge theme is to create, capture and accelerate the benefits from groundbreaking research for future UK manufacturing. Manufacturing businesses compete in international markets, and their supply chains and competitors are often global. As research also performs within a global context, there is considerable scope and need to increase the alignment between global research and global manufacturing.
Likewise, with more and more intermittent renewable electricity generation, particularly wind and solar, coming on stream, a global research effort is needed to develop smart grids and energy storage technologies to secure our low carbon futures.
These two areas are also vitally important for India as it seeks to go up the value chain and create new jobs and industries and also to increase the contribution of renewables in its energy mix. Since 2008, the research partnership between the UK and India in areas of mutual interests has gone from strength to strength. This was highlighted last week by the announcement of 12 new research collaborations in the areas of Advanced Manufacturing and Smart Energy Grids and Energy Storage. A full list of projects is available here.
The new research was announced by David Willetts, the UK’s Science Minister, during the India Business Day Conference at Edgbaston Cricket Ground, Birmingham, against the backdrop of the ICC International Championships. This research is funded by EPSRC in the UK and India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST.)
A very important aspect of this research is that it involves over 30 industry partners from the UK and India, contributing over £1 million to the research projects. Partners include: Rolls-Royce, Bharat Heavy Electricals, E.ON, National Grid and Mott Macdonald. This ensures that research is relevant to industry and the outputs get to be used – an important consideration for us in these times when we need to grow our way out of recession.
We at RCUK India are proud to have played our part in getting these major new research initiatives, which will have a major impact in years to come, off the ground.