Small science offers opportunity for regional businesses

Posted on Wednesday, January 20th, 2010 in News| Share this article
A unique opportunity for companies in Sheffield to develop new products or processes based on latest emerging technologies is being launched by the region’s Nanofactory, building on the expertise of the city’s two universities.

The Nanofactory, which brings together nanotechnology experts from the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam, together with academics from Bradford, Huddersfield, Leeds 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 three years to create jobs and increase business competitiveness in the region.

Liam Sutton, Manager of the Polymer Centre and the University of Sheffield’s lead officer for Nanofactory, said: “The University of Sheffield prides itself on its track record of helping companies of all shapes and sizes to build their businesses through innovation in partnership with some of the world’s leading scientists and engineers. Through the Nanofactory initiative, we’ll be able to match companies’ needs and challenges to our capabilities and design projects that improve our partners’ bottom line while delivering scientific advances to the benefit of everyone.”

Dr Nick Farmilo, from Sheffield Hallam’s Materials and Engineering Research Institute (MERI), said: “Nanotechnology is ‘small-scale science’ that enables the unique properties and behaviours of particles and materials to be applied in a diverse range of sectors – from medical device companies and chemicals firms through to engineering, food technology and construction businesses.

“The expertise at Sheffield Hallam has proved to be invaluable in driving forward nanotechnology and making it accessible for small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) to whom it has often been out of reach in the past.”

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’s Director, Professor Richard Williams added: “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.”

The project will launch a series of sector-specific workshops around the region during 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.

Visit MERI at SHU