Partnerships to create technologies of the future

M Squared, AstraZeneca (AZ), Dstl and the University of Southampton partnership aims to revolutionise the imaging technologies used to assess the effectiveness of new drug candidates

Nine new partnerships bring together world-class expertise from a range of UK businesses and academia to develop technologies of the future and create new jobs.

The transformative technology they aim to develop includes ‘objects’ made up of soundwaves that could replace touchscreens in car and personalised media platforms, which adapt to the preferences of viewers.

Transformative technology

Many of the partnerships will also help to achieve the UK’s net zero target. Examples include creating renewable new materials from sources including carbon capture for use in household products such as laundry detergents.

Other partnerships will look at how the process of drug and medicine discovery can be sped up and its efficiency improved.

The nine Prosperity Partnerships are funded with a £75 million investment from business, academia and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Building on UK strengths

UKRI’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will invest £23 million in the projects through its long-running Prosperity Partnerships initiative.

An additional £2.6 million will be invested in two partnerships through UKRI’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

They will build on existing UK strengths in industry and academia to develop new technologies, processes, and skills that will deliver economic growth and create jobs in areas across the UK.

Developing world class products

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: "As we build back better through innovation, we are putting the funding and structures in place so those at the top of their field – in business, research and academia – can develop world class products and technologies that could change all our lives for the better. The partnerships we are throwing our weight behind today all have innovation at their core.

"The coronavirus pandemic has taught us how vital collaboration is between industry and science and I hope partnerships like this will help in our efforts to prepare for and respond to future pandemics.

"By bringing together business and research expertise in regions across the UK, we will help to drive local economic growth and create highly skilled jobs, all while cementing the UK’s status as a science superpower."

They include a collaboration between Ultraleap and UCL to develop virtual ‘objects’ formed of acoustic soundwaves that could be used in vehicles to replace touchscreen displays and reduce driver distraction.

A partnership between Unilever and the universities of Liverpool and Oxford aims to reduce the carbon footprint of consumer products such as shampoo and laundry detergent through improved chemical production.

Tackling key challenges

GSK will team up with the Francis Crick Institute to industrialise an emerging technology to improve the molecule design phase. This will help accelerate the development of new medicines, which can often be a long and complex process.

The funding will also see a partnership between:

  •     FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies

  •     The University of Edinburgh

  •     The University of Manchester

  •      University of York.

This will utilise state-of-the-art tools and synthetic biology to improve the development of biological drugs and increase their cost-effectiveness.

Sustained investment

The partnerships announced today bring the total number of Prosperity Partnerships funded to 39.

Since 2017 total investment in Prosperity Partnerships has reached £274 million, including £110 million from EPSRC and UKRI partners and £131 million leveraged from 70 businesses.

EPSRC Executive Chair, Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, said: "To tackle key challenges, such as achieving net zero, and seize new opportunities we need to harness the world-class expertise of both industry and academia.

"The Prosperity Partnerships announced today do this by supporting collaborations that will develop transformative new technologies with the potential to deliver societal impact and economic growth."

Summaries of the partnerships

Image: The M Squared, AstraZeneca (AZ), Dstl and the University of Southampton partnership aims to revolutionise the imaging technologies used to assess the effectiveness of new drug candidates

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