Research Councils and TSB collaborate to inspire design freedom in 3D printing

3D Printing, or to give it its slightly less memorable moniker “additive manufacturing”, has been hailed as a revolutionary and game-changing tool for design and manufacturing. Although it is already well established, market uptake has been slow. The UK’s Technology Strategy Board is now collaborating with AHRC, EPSRC, and ESRC to fund business-led industrial research projects to address this, overcoming barriers such as high cost, inconsistent material properties, lack of applicable industry standards, unexpected pre-and post-processing requirements and the failure to exploit the new design freedoms offered. The call officially opened on 3rd December and registration deadline for interested applicants is the 23rd January 2013. There is an information day in London next week on December 11th which is still open for registrations.

What are they looking for?

There are three project types:

Project Type Duration Cost Led By
Small up to 2 years £100K – £400K Small companies only
Medium up to 3 years £200K – £1M Small or medium companies
Large up to 3 years £500K – £1.5M Must include partners from 3 or more sectors, led by a company

Within this framework, TSB wants to see projects at a relatively high Technology Readiness Level (4-7) in one of the six following topic areas:

  • Design freedoms
  • Application development and demonstrators
  • Pre- and post-processing
  • End-to-end system integration
  • Supply and distribution chains
  • Business model development and demonstration
For academic partners within consortia, TSB in partnership with the research councils, has identified three priority areas where academic research could be undertaken as part of the innovation project:
  1. End-to-end manufacturing cycle rehearsal (digital simulation/validation, design to delivery).
  2. Economic and social enablers for sustainable supply chain and business model development.
  3. Mobilising design freedoms and intellectual property frameworks for successful business transformation.

What are the Research Council priorities?

The EPSRC is supporting this competition with up to £1m for research grants and wishes to encourage the participation of research groups which have secured significant prior EPSRC support for additive manufacturing research. It will consider funding project work packages focused on research done by universities, where it aligns with EPSRC priorities as set out in their strategy Manufacturing the Future (www.epsrc.ac.uk) and is in scope of this competition. Applicants invited to apply for Stage 2 of this competition will identify work packages at that stage.

Similarly, the AHRC is looking to invest up to £500k in research work packages aligned with its Digital Transformations theme and Design strategic priority area (www. ahrc.ac.uk).

Likewise, the ESRC is looking to support with up to £500k for research work packages aligned with its Economic Performance and Sustainable Growth theme (www.esrc.ac.uk).

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