Recognised by the Department of International Trade (DIT) as the ideal UK location to capitalise on lightweighting opportunities, Greater Manchester’s (GM) strengths in Advanced materials technologies and manufacturing, puts it in a unique position.

Here are six reasons why the city-region can support businesses in harnessing the commercial, environmental and world leading research opportunities of the UK’s Lightweight Structures opportunity.

1. The home of graphene and 100 other advanced materials – Greater Manchester has always been a pioneer in innovation and is known to be the world’s first industrial city with the first factories and industrial estates.

In 2004 The University of Manchester was home to a landmark moment in manufacturing history – when two researchers, Professor Andre Geim and Professor Kostya Novoselov isolated Graphene for the first time, for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.

Since then, GM has built an eco-system to power research into Graphene to develop products and applications, collaborate on research and drive innovation amongst academics, scientists, manufacturers, and engineers, in various industries from energy and transport to healthcare and farming.

You will find this expertise at world leading institutes, with over £600 million invested into advanced materials assets, right here in the city. This includes the National Graphene Institute (NGI) - the national centre and world leading facility for graphene research, The Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre (GEIC), that focuses on pilot production and commercialisation with industry partners, and The Henry Royce Institute which is the UK’s hub for Advanced Materials Research, and whose specialisms include 2D materials, advanced metals processing and atoms to devices – all of which taking the world by storm.

2. Where Charles Rolls met Henry Royce. You could argue that Manchester’s strong reputation for collaboration began in 1904, when Charles Rolls met Henry Royce for the first time.

Now, the location provides a successful network of connectivity to meet the demands of its thriving workforce and inward investors, providing a gateway for businesses who are looking to collaborate on innovation.

GM is at the heart of two transport clusters – the largest aerospace cluster in Europe worth £8 billion and the 2nd largest automotive cluster in the UK, offering easy access to supply chain opportunities, with local manufacturers such as Ford, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Airbus, BAE Systems, Vauxhall (Stellantis) and Jaguar Land Rover.

Other key sectors converge to drive innovation, for example the Christabel Pankhurst Institute which is exploring new advanced materials and innovative uses for them in health and care.

3. Short, medium, and long-term business opportunities in abundance – Providing the right conditions for commercialisation in advanced lightweight structures across its key industries, and at a competitive cost despite the current climate is no easy feat.

However, as a result of the UK’s NetZero target and emphasis to reduce emissions, the immediate demand to fill supply chain gaps provides interesting business opportunities, and although the region boasts significant composite capability, UK OEM’s need suppliers to fill certain supply chain gaps. Any company developing and/or producing lightweight parts cost effectively from Manchester would be considered for supply to aero and auto OEMs in the region.

Greater Manchester's substantial progress in achieving its ambitious Net Zero target of 2038, means businesses in the region work together towards a shared goal. Over the last 18 months, Innovation Greater Manchester has been the main driver of an ecosystem to support and generate innovation-led business growth. This exciting work taking place in the urban centres is being translated to the wider region, to help level up communities and to create high value industries for the future, globally.

The recent announcement of Greater Manchester’s inclusion in a £100m Innovation Accelerator fund aligns perfectly with Innovation GM and the local industrial strategy to deliver our twin goals of inclusivity and clean growth, so now is the time to get in on the action.

4. Accelerate your innovation and ‘Fail fast, learn fast’.  The GEIC has adopted a ‘fail fast, learn fast’ approach to quickly learn and commercialise new innovations. The institute encourages the UK’s strategic innovation community to take this approach to scale and expand integrated lab-to-market capability.

World class businesses are taking on the challenge and include BAE Systems, a prime example of a company using this opportunity to develop lighter aircraft components, GKN Aerospace at the helm of aerospace innovation and the global advanced materials engineering group Versarien which has most recently announced a collaboration with US-based Flex Footwear to supply graphene-enhanced elastomers for an improved model of Flux’s ‘Adapt’ shoe.

5. A talented and collaborative eco-system – Greater Manchester is ‘The Place’ where people work together to make things happen. Through many years of cooperation and innovation between the public, private and academic sectors GM has developed an entrepreneurial yet collaborative approach to identifying and promoting what matters most to the people and place.

There’s a strong relationship between academia and industry, home to many hundreds of advanced materials researchers in the city region along with over 100,000 workers in high productivity manufacturing and 14,000 students in advanced materials across 4 universities it’s no wonder so many great things are produced. It’s important to note the cost of living in Manchester is 37% lower than London, so this helps not only to attract talent, but also retain it.

6. Significant expertise in digital manufacturing

Technology and innovation in fields such as AI, robotics, additive manufacturing, virtual & augmented reality, the Internet of Things and Cyber - and the convergence of these technologies, can make a considerable impact on increasing the competitiveness of the manufacturing industry.

Current exploration and projects are underway at The University of Manchester. Exploring how digital manufacturing can aid and scale the commercialisation of composites and lightweight materials.  Check out the Industry 4.0 factsheet here for examples of this in action.

MIDAS, Manchester’s Inward Investment Agency is attending JEC World in Paris between 3rd-5th May. Find out more about the event here or register below to book an appointment at our stand or virtually, or just visit us at Hall 6 Stand R52 to say hello.          

If you’d like to find out more about how your business can tap into this opportunity get in touch with the MIDAS team.

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