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Utilising materials expertise to drive innovation and productivity in UK industry

Dr JT Janssen, Chief Scientist at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and member of the Strategic Advisory Board at the Henry Royce Institute

As National Institutes, both NPL and the Henry Royce Institute (Royce) recognise that innovation in advanced materials is crucial in helping to solve many of the grand challenges we see in our world today, from energy transition and electrification of transport to healthcare and the digital economy. Since the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NPL and Royce in December 2020, the two organisations have focused on collaboration on one of the key innovation challenges for advanced materials, namely building confidence in the repeatability and reproducibility of the characterisation of the materials, through NPL’s measurement expertise and Royce’s state of the art facilities.

At NPL, our research is aimed at developing new and improved, validated measurement and instrument technology which will improve the understanding and reliability of the measurement techniques used by industry and academia, and in recent years we have been working with experts at Royce to combine expertise around advanced materials innovation and cutting-edge materials metrology. I’m delighted that Royce’s new Hub building will act as a centre of scientific excellence and enable the collaboration between academia and industry in this area. 

It is imperative to accelerate the development and adoption of advanced materials and processes to drive innovation and productivity within UK industry. Combining greater understanding of performance with improved measurement techniques means that industry can have the confidence to employ advanced materials and reap the benefits that they offer.

NPL and Royce share this common goal in the Advanced Materials sector with a view to stimulating growth and giving confidence to industry. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to accelerate advanced materials development to support the national challenges and aide the economic recovery. The opening of the new Royce Hub Building is a significant step in furthering the development of advanced materials for a sustainable society.

Collaboration around the development and application of advanced materials is key to meeting the societal environmental and economic challenges we face today. Our MoU was an initial step towards the joint ambition to develop the concept of a National Advanced Materials Verification Centre to serve the UK advanced materials community and to provide confidence and accelerate the commercialisation of these game-changing materials. NPL has become a trusted partner for Royce through our expert input into technology roadmaps, to define the challenges and barriers for the UK to meet net zero targets. Our collaborative research with the Royce, The University of Manchester and Scienta Omicron on Hard X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (HAXPES) demonstrates the importance of the world leading capabilities that Royce is providing to enable industry, academia and measurement experts to work together for the necessary standardisation, calibration and library of relative sensitivity factors (RSFs) for ground breaking science.

In the future it is expected that new materials will be adopted as advanced functionalities are released and alternative sources become available, including materials for biomanufacturing, self-healing materials and metamaterials. The work of experts at institutes like NPL and Royce, will enable a deeper understanding of complex material behaviour, enabling confidence in their widespread adoption and future scale-up.

I look forward to continuing our collaboration with Royce and working to develop the required measurement science that provides confidence in the performance and long-term reliability of materials in real world applications. In my role as deputy chair of the Strategic Advisory Board I will continue to assist Royce Institute with developing its key performance targets and contributing to the strategic direction for the next phase as the institute transitions from start-up phase to full running mode.

Image courtesy of The Henry Royce Institute 

10 Sep 2021