Manufacturing technologies

Key enabling technologies that will allow manufacturing processes, products and systems to function with high efficiency, reliability and repeatability, and appropriate precision and flexibility. This research area builds on a wide range of other fields of science and engineering (including other Research Council remits), allowing development of: novel or improved manufacturing processes and machines (e.g. metrology, control); novel or improved products (e.g. advanced materials); and novel or improved systems (e.g. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), energy).

This research area is vital to supporting UK prosperity and productivity across a broad range of industry sectors. In view of this, we have provided significant support for the area, particularly via investment in critical-mass activities (e.g. Future Manufacturing Research Hubs) and support for research leaders.

We will invest in research addressing the most important challenges for UK manufacturing (e.g. the manufacture of new, emerging products; digital manufacturing; sustainable industries and the circular economy; and local/bespoke manufacturing). (Evidence source 1)

By the end of the current Delivery Plan, we aim to have:

  • Increased the proportion of investigator-led research within the area. We will work with the manufacturing community to identify industry-inspired challenges and will support the multidisciplinary interfaces (particularly with biological sciences and ICT) that are essential to meeting the skills and technology needs of the factories of the future. We will ensure that breakthroughs in basic research from across science and engineering are supported to deliver a pathway to manufacture
  • Attracted and retained talent throughout the career pipeline, with a particular focus on identifying and developing future leaders. We will work with the manufacturing community to attract into Manufacturing Technologies the best potential researchers from a diverse population. In addition, we will continue to encourage mobility between industry and academia
  • Enabled researchers to support the pathway to scale-up and manufacture by facilitating and encouraging engagement with industry and Catapults
  • Capitalised on the UK's existing infrastructure and facilities that support manufacturing research, especially by encouraging the sharing of facilities.

In developing this strategy, we have taken account of the role of EPSRC support in the wider research and innovation landscape. (Evidence source 2,3) UK research in Manufacturing Technologies is of high quality and, in some cases, world-leading. (Evidence source 4,5) EPSRC investment is complemented by support for pathways to manufacture (especially Innovate UK initiatives and the Catapult centres).

Manufacturing is recognised as critical to rebalancing the UK economy, contributing 10% of UK Gross Value Added in 2013 and directly employing over 2.6 million people. (Evidence source 6,7,8) Manufacturing Technologies research could enable the UK to take the lead in global markets through innovative, high-value products and production processes. (Evidence source 9) There is a need for continued innovation in manufacturing and the research base is crucial for underpinning and enabling the most transformative and disruptive innovations. (Evidence source 10)

Manufacturing Technologies are key to achieving a range of industrial sector strategies (e.g. aerospace and automotive). Emerging industries (e.g. quantum technologies) will need associated Manufacturing Technologies to enable commercial application. EPSRC-supported research is closely aligned to industrial challenges, with projects achieving significant leverage (particularly from the aerospace, automotive, medical/pharma and consumer goods sectors, as well as the manufacturing machinery/material supply chain).

Research leaders in this area take an active role in strategy and policy development, in addition to having experience of working in industry (e.g. the 18 EPSRC Manufacturing Fellows). The challenge remains to attract and retain a diverse range of future leaders in academia, particularly as research training and skills are highly valued by industry.

Capability is spread across the UK and we have invested heavily in critical mass through the Centres for Innovative Manufacturing and Future Manufacturing Hubs. (Evidence source 3) Materials processing equipment was funded through a number of initiatives in the last Delivery Plan period and other investments (e.g. the Sir Henry Royce Institute and the Catapult centres) have boosted availability of infrastructure.

This research area has the potential to contribute to all four Prosperity Outcomes, especially Productive Nation. Specific Ambitions within Productive, Connected and Healthy Nation Outcomes include:

P1: Introduce the next generation of innovative and disruptive technologies

Promoting high-risk, investigator-led manufacturing research can pull fundamental science through into manufacturing.

P3: Establish a new place for industry that is built upon a ‘make it local, make it bespoke’ approach

This research area enables manufacture of personalised products and medicines.

P4: Drive business innovation through digital transformation

This research area enables Information Technology-driven, automated production.

P5: Transform to a sustainable society, with a focus on the circular economy

This research area contributes, for example, through closed-loop recycling of metals and alloys.

C2: Achieve transformational development and use of the Internet of Things

This research area contributes, for example, by enabling intelligent manufacturing processes.

H4: Develop future therapeutic technologies

This can be aided, for instance, by creating manufacturing processes for the production of cellular therapies.

  1. EEF, Manufacturing, Britain's Future, (2015).
  2. EPSRC, Knowledge Maps, (2015).
  3. UK Manufacturing Review 2015-2016.
  4. Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, manufacturing submissions contributing to aeronautical, mechanical chemical and manufacturing engineering.
  5. EPSRC Centres for Innovative Manufacturing Mid-term Reviews (providing international benchmarking), (2013-2016).
  6. Office for National Statistics,  Statistical Bulletin: UK Labour Market - April 2016, (2016).
  7. House of Commons Briefing Paper, Manufacturing: Statistics and Policy (PDF), (2015).
  8. EEF: the Manufacturers' Organisation, website.
  9. Government Office for Science, The Future of Manufacturing: A New Era of Opportunity and Challenge for the UK (PDF), (2013).
  10. EEF, Innovation Support Report Card, (2015).

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships.

EPSRC support by research area in manufacturing technologies (GoW)
Search EPSRC's research and training grants.

Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: Becky Cheesbrough
Job title: Portfolio Manager
Department: Manufacturing the Future
Organisation: EPSRC
Telephone: 01793 444291