£78 million government fund to aid industry-academia collaboration

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A new £78 million government funding programme has been established in the UK to aid industry and academic entities collaborate on technologies that address societal needs.

The ‘Prosperity Partnerships’ programme will feature 10 universities leading 11 projects on topics ranging from future networks for digital infrastructure to cancer diagnosis, partnering with large corporations such as Siemens, BP and Unilever, in addition to photonics companies like M Squared Lasers and Rockley Photonics.

M Squared is currently collaborating with the University of St Andrews on innovative ultra-pure laser research that will benefit the development of new diagnosis methods and treatments for dementia and cancer. The research centres around the development of new laser-based imaging techniques that use light scattering to help diagnose cancer and other diseases early. Light scattering and interference measurement techniques are also being developed as part of the research, which will also help transform current diagnosis and treatment capabilities.

Professor Kishan Dholakia, professor of physics at the University of St Andrews, said: ‘The potential for us to drive forward new research ideas with the goal of creating real tangible benefit for UK’s societal needs is very inspiring. This is a very timely and exciting venture that builds upon our very strong relationship with M Squared that aims to rapidly transfer new innovations from the University into real-world impact.’

Dr Graeme Malcom OBE, CEO and co-founder of M Squared said, ‘Biophotonics and laser-based innovations can have a huge impact in medicine. Our work with research partners, and in particular the University of St Andrews, brings our technology much closer to the sectors – including medicine, industrials and even quantum computing – where our work can have the largest impact. We have a lot of confidence in this project, made possible by the EPSRC.’

The Prosperity Partnerships programme will receive £31 million of government funding from by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). This will be matched by a further £36 million from partner organisations in cash or in-kind contributions, plus £11 million from universities’ funds, totalling £78 million in all.

A Prosperity Partnership was recently formed between the EPSRC and Rockley Photonics to fund the UK’s Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton with £4.8 million to support its research.

Additionally, the University of Glasgow’s School of Physics and Astronomy last month unveiled an EPSRC-funded advanced materials imaging facility worth £1 million, giving researchers access to a suite of new tools to analyse and develop new materials for industry.