2 new 'innovation and knowledge centers' receive $32 million funding

October 13, 2010

Funding was announced today for two new research centres in the UK. Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Technology Strategy Board, these 'Innovation and Knowledge Centres' (IKCs) will mix business knowledge with the most up-to-date research to harness the full potential of emerging technologies - ensuring the UK is first to develop this cutting-edge research.

The two new centres will focus on areas where world class scientific breakthroughs have already been achieved. They will build on the success of the existing centres at Cambridge, Cranfield, Queen's Belfast and Leeds Universities and will become centres of excellence to achieve major scientific breakthroughs. The new IKC's will bring together high calibre teams with a proven research excellence to explore the potential of these breakthroughs and bring new technologies to market more quickly. The funding was announced today at Innovate10; a Technology Strategy Board event that bought people together to solve problems and make new advances, creating opportunity and growth for the future.

Talking about the two new centres to be based at Swansea University and the University of Cambridge, EPSRC's Chief Executive, Professor David Delpy, said:

"Taking exciting research from the university laboratory to the commercial sector through close collaboration with user stakeholders is vital to ensuring the UK's economy continues to be innovative and globally competitive.

EPSRC is strongly committed to supporting universities in commercialising their outstanding research and I applaud the innovative approach taken by the successful applicants, and all competing universities."

The Technology Strategy board's Chief Executive, Iain Gray, said:

"These two new Innovation and Knowledge Centres are highly important for the UK and economic growth because they harness specialist academic knowledge and business expertise in areas where we have proved capabilities and we know that we can do well.

By pooling know-how, capablity, and expertise in one centre, the UK maximises the opportunity to innovate effectively and generate economic growth."

Swansea's new centre will be called SPECIFIC - the Sustainable Product Engineering Centre for Innovative Functional Industrial Coatings. SPECIFIC's primary aim is to transform buildings into 'power stations' through the rapid commercialisation of functional coatings on steel and glass in the areas of energy capture, storage and release. The ambitious target of the SPECIFIC academic and industrial partnership is to generate a portfolio of products which, by 2020, will generate over one third of the UK's requirement for renewable energy.

The University of Cambridge centre will combine research in sensor and data management with innovative manufacturing processes to provide radical changes to the construction and management of infrastructure. The aim is to transform the industry through a whole-life approach to achieving sustainability in construction and infrastructure, covering design and commissioning, the construction process, exploitation and use, and eventual decommissioning.
Notes to editors:

If using this story in print or online, please include a link to our website www.epsrc.ac.uk

About the Innovation and Knowledge Centres

Innovation and Knowledge Centres are centres of excellence with five years' funding to accelerate and promote business exploitation of an emerging research and technology field. Their key feature is a shared space and entrepreneurial environment, in which researchers, potential customers and skilled professionals from both academia and business can work side-by-side to scope applications, business models and routes to market.

Invitations to submit to a third call for Innovation and Knowledge Centres were sent to university Vice-Chancellors in October 2009 following a call announcement at Innovate '09.

This call builds on the successes of the existing four IKCs which were funded through a pilot call in November 2005 and a subsequent call in 2007: Research Council support for each of the new Innovation and Knowledge Centres will consist of up to £6.95 million funding over five years with a further £2.5 million from the Technology Strategy Board.

University support of at least £2 million is required for all applications for Innovation and Knowledge Centres. This could include, for example, a contribution towards infrastructure, buildings, or the redeployment of existing doctoral training account or collaborative training account provision.

Funding is also conditional on up front letters of support from business partners to explain the Innovation and Knowledge Centre's business relevance and targets for their contribution.

Swansea University - Sustainable Product Engineering Centre for Innovative Functional Industrial Coatings

In the UK there are more than four billion square metres of roofs and facades forming the building envelope. Most of this could potentially be used for harvesting solar energy and yet it covers less than 1.8 % of the UK land area. The shared vision for SPECIFIC is to develop affordable large area solar collectors which can replace standard roofs and generate over one third of the UK's total target renewable energy by 2020 (10.8 GW peak and 19 TWh) reducing CO2 output by 6 million tonnes per year. This will be achieved with an annual production of 20 million m2 by 2020 equating to less than 0.5% of the available roof and wall area. SPECIFIC will realise this by quickly developing practical functional coated materials on metals and glass that can be manufactured by industry in large volumes to produce, store and release energy at point of use. These products will be suitable for fitting on both new and existing buildings, which is important since 50% of the UKs current CO2 emissions come from the built environment.

The key focus for SPECIFIC will be to accelerate the commercialisation of IP, knowledge and expertise held between the University partners (Swansea, ICL, Bath, Strathclyde, Glyndwr, and Bangor) and UK based industry in three key areas of electricity generation from solar energy (photovoltaics), heat generation (solar thermal) and storage/controlled release. The combination of functionality will be achieved through applying functional coatings to metal and glass surfaces. Critical to this success is the active involvement in the Centre of the global steel giant Tata and the global glass manufacturer Pilkington. These two materials dominate the facings of the building stock and are surfaces which can be engineered. In addition major chemical companies (such as BASF, Akzo Nobel, Beckers and Johnson Matthey) are involved in the project, as well as specialist suppliers to the emerging PV industry (such as Dyesol). This range of internationally recognised partners gives SPECIFIC both academic depth and industrial relevance. To maximise open innovation, colleagues from industry will be based in SPECIFIC on both a permanent and part-time basis.

SPECIFIC is a unique business opportunity bridging a technology gap, delivering affordable novel macro-scale micro-generation, making a major contribution to UK renewable energy targets and creating a new export opportunity for off grid power in the developing world. It will ultimately generate thousands of high technology jobs within a green manufacturing sector, creating a sustainable international centre of excellence in functional coatings where multi-sector applications are developed for next generation manufacturing.

University of Cambridge - Smart Infrastructure and Construction

Much of our infrastructure is more than 100 years old. Resilience against systemic failure of UK infrastructure is significantly weakened through ageing. Sensors and data management can be used to quantify and define the extent of ageing and the consequent remaining design life of their infrastructure. Infrastructure is a large part of the UK's assets. Efficient management and maintenance of infrastructure are vital to the economy and society. The application of emerging technologies to advanced health monitoring of existing critical infrastructure assets will quantify and define the extent of ageing and the consequent remaining design life of infrastructure, thereby reducing the risk of failure. Emerging technologies will also transform the industry through a whole-life approach to achieving sustainability in construction and infrastructure in an integrated way - design and commissioning, the construction process, exploitation and use, and eventual de-commissioning. Crucial elements of these emerging technologies will be the application of the latest sensor technologies, data management tools and manufacturing processes to the construction industry, both during infrastructure construction and throughout its design life. There will be a very substantial market for exploitation of these technologies by the construction industry, particularly contractors, specialist instrumentation companies and owners of infrastructure.

In this project, we seek to create the Innovation and Knowledge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction that will bring together four leading research groups in the Cambridge Engineering Department and the Computer Laboratory (sensors, computing, manufacturing engineering and civil engineering), along with staff in other faculties - the Judge Business School and the Department of Architecture.

The Centre will develop and commercialise emerging technologies which will provide radical changes in the construction and management of infrastructure, leading to considerably enhanced efficiencies, economies and adaptability.

The business opportunities in construction and infrastructure are very considerable, not only for construction companies but also for other industries such as IT, electronics and materials. The IKC is designed to respond directly and systematically to the input received from industry partners on what is required to address this issue. Through the close involvement of industry in technical development as well as in demonstrations in real construction projects, the commercialisation activities of emerging technologies will be progressed during the project to a point where they can be licensed to industry.

The outputs of the IKC will provide the construction industry, infrastructure owners and operators with the means to ensure that very challenging new performance targets can be met. Furthermore the potential breakthroughs will make the industry more efficient and hence more profitable. They will also give UK companies a competitive advantage in the increasingly global construction market.


The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC also actively promotes public awareness of science and engineering. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

About the Technology Strategy Board

The Technology Strategy Board is a business-led executive non-departmental public body, established by the government. Its role is to promote and support research into, and development and exploitation of, technology and innovation for the benefit of UK business, in order to increase economic growth and improve the quality of life. It is sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). For more information please visit www.innovateuk.org.

About Swansea University

Swansea University is a world class, research-led university situated in stunning parkland overlooking Swansea Bay on the edge of the Gower peninsula, the UK's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Founded in 1920, the University now offers around 500 undergraduate courses and 150 postgraduate courses to more than 13,800 students. For more information, visit: www.swansea.ac.uk

About the University of Cambridge

Cambridge is one of the world's leading research universities. It has more than 80 Nobel Prizes to its credit, more than any other single university in the world. The Department of Engineering is Cambridge's largest department with a score in the Research Assessment Exercise 2008 that topped the General Engineering panel and was unsurpassed in any other science or technology panel. The Computer Lab matched Engineering's high score. Architecture and the Judge Business School were also highly placed. Overall, in the Engineering and Technology category of the THES world rankings for 2010, Cambridge is in the top six and the best outside the USA. Together these departments form a team with unique strength, because of their long history of close collaboration across a very wide range of multidisciplinary research and teaching projects. www.cam.ac.uk

Press enquiries should be directed to Victoria McGuire, Media Relations Manager, Engineering and Physical Science Research Council.
Direct line: +44 1793 444267 Mobile: 07940 227303
Email: victoria.mcguire@epsrc.ac.uk

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

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