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21 January 2010 University of Leeds

Small science offering big opportunity for regional businesses

Top: Smart seal for root canal treatments. Left: PVD coatings on Hydra-Clarkson drill bits. Right: Instrumental Involvement (Safe and Secure Buldings Project)
Top: Smart seal for root canal treatments. Left: PVD coatings on Hydra-Clarkson drill bits. Right: Instrumental Involvement (Safe and Secure Buldings Project).
Image Credit: University of Leeds/Institute of Nanotechnology.

A unique opportunity for forward thinking companies in Yorkshire to develop new products or processes based on latest emerging technologies is being launched by the region's Nanofactory.

The Nanofactory - which brings together nanotechnology experts from the universities of Bradford, Huddersfield, Leeds, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam and York is looking to form partnerships with companies interested in exploring new business opportunities based on latest advances in nanotechnology.

The project is part-funded by a £1m investment from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme that is making substantial investments over the next 3 years to create jobs and increase business competitiveness in the region.

Put simply, nanotechnology is ‘small-scale science’ that enables the unique properties and behaviours of particles and materials at this nanoscale to be applied in a diverse range of sectors – from medical device companies and chemicals firms through to engineering, food technology and construction businesses.

However, financing research and development to drive nanotechnology innovation forward is often out of reach for SMEs, and particularly so in the current economic climate. The region’s SME spend on R&D is three times lower than the national average.

Partnerships with Nanofactory universities will allow SMEs to explore this new area of technology and potentially apply for a range of external funding opportunities - for example European Union funding, and Technology Strategy Board grants.

“Nanofactory connects the knowledge and expertise of academic researchers with the needs and challenges of companies in the region. This offers a powerful combination and driver for innovation. As a result new fundamental and applied research programmes will be stimulated and leading university researchers will seek out funding and partnerships to deliver these,” says Nanofactory’s director, Professor Richard Williams.

“This type of research based activity goes way beyond the usual consultancy support that SMEs can access at universities and it aims to provide much more than short term problem solving. Nanotechnology doesn’t have to be the domain of large companies and multinationals – there are opportunities for all sizes of company.”

The project will launch a series of sector-specific workshops around the region in early 2010, at which the benefits of new nanotechnology advances will be outlined and discussed with delegates. The events will provide a forum for companies, those in the supply chain and technology experts to brainstorm ideas for future R&D possibilities. Ideas that are generated may form the basis of grant applications to appropriate funding bodies.

“The project is itself an enterprising approach to several key challenges, and plays to the strengths of each of the partners”, says Trevor Shaw, Yorkshire Forward’s executive director of finance. “For the region, this is a unique opportunity to boost spend on R&D and for universities, it will allow them to devise and deliver new research programmes that have real impact. Most importantly, for SMEs, it enables them to leverage technology expertise in the region that can underpin future business opportunities to secure their future competitiveness.”

Source: University of Leeds /...

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