A new project to speed up the transfer of groundbreaking research and development from the North West Laser Engineering Consortium (NWLEC) to Northwest businesses has been given the go ahead following the confirmation of an £882,000 investment from the Northwest European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
The NWLEC is a strategic alliance between the universities of Liverpool and Manchester, bringing together the expertise of both universities to research and develop laser capabilities for the benefit of Northwest industry. It was established in 2005 with a £2.5 million investment from the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) through the Northwest Science Fund.
The centre has developed international capability at the forefront of laser applications in micro and nano technology and there is evidence of strong interest in this technology from companies across key growth sectors, particularly advanced engineering. However, the technology remains unproven in an industrial context and industry needs access to expertise and support in order to assess its benefits and adapt the technology to optimum solutions.
This investment will address these barriers by putting in place new knowledge exchange activity to demonstrate that the technology developed by the NWLEC can be applied and exploited by industry partners. It will enable facilitators/technical translators to work with companies to provide the interface between the knowledge base and companies that want to utilise the technology.
Steven Broomhead, Chief Executive of the NWDA, said: “The Northwest is home to a world-class higher education sector, producing cutting-edge research, and is a vital resource for Northwest businesses. This research needs to be more accessible for companies, with the right support in place to enable it to be translated effectively into innovation new products and processes that will ensure they remain competitive in the global marketplace.
The NWLEC, established with NWDA support, is a great success story for the region, and this additional ERDF funding will significantly improve the knowledge exchange process between the centre and Northwest businesses, ensuring that they are fully able to realise the advantages of this technology.”
John Flamson, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Development at the University of Liverpool, said: “The university is committed to working with external partners to improve the competitiveness of the regional economy. This new project will help us to translate cutting-edge laser technologies to the local business base, strengthening university-industry collaborations, and adding value to the university’s considerable expertise in this area. We are delighted that our collaboration with the University of Manchester can continue to build the advanced engineering sector of the Northwest.”
Professor Lin Li, Director of Laser Processing Research Centre at the University of Manchester, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for the Northwest Laser Engineering Consortium to capitalise upon many years of basic scientific research in laser processing for commercial applications and practical implementation.
“It is a challenge for us, as the nature of knowledge transfer is quite different than with normal academic research activities, although in the past we have worked with many UK companies in laser processing research and development. This new project will undoubtedly take the NWLEC into a different dimension.”
Alan Manning, ERDF Programme Monitoring Committee Member representing business and skills, said: “Ensuring that Northwest companies are able to exploit innovation and knowledge is a key priority of European funding and a crucial element in boosting competitiveness and productivity. I am pleased to welcome this latest investment, which will develop greater capacity for companies to utilise this technology and improve links between industry and the knowledge base.”