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MI partners integral to the region securing first Strength in Places funding success

Partners in the Midlands Innovations group – a collaboration of the region’s top research-intensive universities - have helped to successfully secure nearly £18.3 million in government funding through UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Strength in Places Fund (SIPF).

The announcement coincided with the much anticipated release of the Government’s Innovation Strategy.

The Universities of Birmingham, Leicester, Loughborough and Warwick are working with industry to create The Midlands Industrial Ceramics Group, and funding for the collaborative programme will now help to put the area firmly on the map as a global centre for advanced ceramics.

Thousands of jobs are set to be created in the Midlands after the region’s bid to become a world-leader in advanced ceramics received the significant funding sum.

The funds will be used to create a world-leading industrial and academic research and development programme over the next four years, creating a cluster of new businesses in the Midlands and strengthening the supply chain in the region.

The SIPF funding, combined with partner investment and the creation of new business opportunities, will together make the programme a £42.1 million project. 

Formed by some of the area’s largest businesses and universities, the MICG was launched in 2020 to deliver a world-leading approach to advanced ceramics.

Alongside the MI universities, membership of the MICG is made up of blue-chip companies and SMEs including Rolls-Royce, JCB, Morgan Advanced Materials and Lucideon.

Ian Edmonds, of Rolls-Royce, is the chair of MICG. He said: “Advanced ceramics are often unseen but vital components of jet engines, electronics, medical devices, car batteries, other energy technologies and many more manufactured products. 

“They allow products to operate at higher temperatures, in more challenging environments and can last longer than plastic or metal equivalents.

“Globally, the advanced ceramics sector is projected to be worth £143 billion by 2023, and the outcome of this funding means the Midlands is well-placed to be part of it.”

Professor Jon Binner, of MI partner the University of Birmingham and the President of the European Ceramic Society, said: “As a result of our history in ceramics that goes back centuries, and an extensive manufacturing base, the Midlands hosts the UK’s largest cluster of both users and producers of advanced ceramics.

“This SIPF investment will form part of a co-ordinated effort to grow the whole advanced ceramics supply chain in the Midlands, maximising the UK’s ability to compete more effectively in this global market.”

Dr Helen Turner, Director of Midlands Innovation, said: “We are delighted that the region has been awarded its first ever funding award through the Strength in Place Fund.

“This bid exemplifies the very ethos of our partnership – to undertake collaborate placed-based research which is grounded in transforming the Midlands through the creation of jobs, developing new businesses and increasing the competitive edge of the Midlands existing industries for the benefit of the UK economy.

“The announcement of the funding success as part of the release of the Government’s new Innovation Strategy is welcome, and reaffirms the integral role that the regions’ businesses and universities have in helping to successfully deliver the strategy.”

The successful outcome of the SIPF funding is also set to unlock further investment from MICG’s partners. This includes opening up opportunities for the next stage of the development, an Advanced Ceramics Campus, a 130,000 square feet development, proposed for North Staffordshire – which will make the scheme an £80 million plus project in total, which will ultimately contribute towards the growth of 4,200 jobs in the region over the next decade.

Of the funding success, Tony Kinsella, chief executive of Lucideon, said: “This facility will provide an important hub for industry, offering a centre of excellence for research and development, as well as underpinning academic research.

“It will create an environment for business and academia to share knowledge and collaborate on research and development, safeguarding existing jobs and allowing existing companies to expand, as well as providing opportunities for new start-ups.

More details about MICG can be found at https://micg.org.uk/

Led by UK Research and Innovation, Strength in Places Fund (SIPF) is a competitive funding scheme that takes a place-based approach to research and innovation funding, to support significant local economic growth.