A broad spectrum of underpinning micro-engineering research aimed at developing a diverse range of novel miniaturised micro-structured devices, including microfluidic, microelectromechanical and micro-fabricated devices. This research can be of a generic nature or focused on the development of a specific device targeted at a particular end use.
Recognising that microsystems can be key enabling technologies, with applications found in almost every industrial field, we aim to maintain this research area as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio.
By the end of the Delivery Plan period, we aim to have:
- A well-networked microsystems community which facilitates collaboration and knowledge-sharing across the field and with other disciplines. We will work with the community to explore options for better networking and increased leadership, to exploit opportunities, identify new directions and ensure maximum research impact
- A portfolio delivering a balance of underpinning research and applications-driven work. We will work with the community to enable fundamental microsystems research less driven by a specific application, with a particular focus on creative and ambitious research
- A research field that attracts a healthy supply of early-career researchers and enables and supports their careers. We will work with the community to facilitate development at the early-career stage to ensure future capability and to develop the leaders of the future
- Research investments which demonstrate strong pathways to impact and deliver economic, societal and academic impact. Researchers are particularly encouraged to consider how their work may deliver increased impact through co-creation, collaboration and knowledge-sharing across the diverse strands of the microsystems research field.
Novel microsystems can be key enabling technologies; applications can be found, for example, in the healthcare, automotive, aerospace and information and communication technologies (ICT) sectors (Evidence source 1,2,3,4,5).
This research area is relatively small within the EPSRC portfolio, and dominated by applications-driven research with a strong healthcare focus (reflecting the UK’s strength in the area), (Evidence source 6).
The microsystems field and associated community are diverse, with researchers responding to new challenges, application areas and research directions. Researchers often align themselves with a specific application area rather than to a broader microsystems community, which can result in a level of community fragmentation (Evidence source 6,7).
The varied nature of microsystems research is reflected in the broader EPSRC portfolio, with researchers funded by a number of Themes and across a number of associated research areas. The area is intrinsically interdisciplinary, drawing on and contributing to much of our remit. Notable links are to Clinical Technologies, Sensors and Instrumentation, Fluid Dynamics and Aerodynamics, Complex Fluids and Rheology, Microelectronic Device Technology, Continuum Mechanics, and Quantum Devices, Components and Systems, with emerging links to Synthetic Biology (Evidence source 6).
Key areas of UK strength include design of devices, multiphase and droplet-based microfluidics, medical microsystems and microsystems in autonomous systems. There continues to be strong international competition in this research area, especially from the US, Korea, Germany, the Netherlands and Japan (Evidence source 6,7,8).
There is no strong sense of a microsystems community; common-interest groups, networks and strong leadership are not evident. Early-stage community-led discussions are in progress, however, considering options for better networking (Evidence source 7).
There is a perception of a lack of new researchers entering the area; certainly, numbers of EPSRC first grants are low (As of 2016 - two current awards, with 11 in total since 2011). We have opened microsystems as a fellowship area across all career stages, but this has been met with low uptake (two funded, as of 2016), (Evidence source 6,7).
The microsystems community has a history of strong industrial collaboration and partnership, particularly for applications-driven research. Fundamental microsystems research, less driven by application, has the potential to increase the underpinning science and engineering knowledge base and have a broad impact across the breadth of microsystems research. Recent years, though, have seen a decline in fundamental microsystems research (Evidence source 6,7).
This are has the potential to contribute to all four Outcomes in the short to medium term and particularly to the following Healthy, Productive and Connected Ambitions:
H3: Optimise diagnosis and treatment
Microsystems research plays a key role in the development of novel medical devices and technologies (Evidence source 2,3,4).
P1: Introduce the next generation of innovative and disruptive technologies
Microsystems research can be a key enabler for advanced and high-value systems and can allow developments which would otherwise be impossible (e.g. autonomous, portable, safety-critical and implantable systems and technologies), (Evidence source 1,2,3,4,5).
C2: Achieve transformational development and use of the Internet of Things
Microsystems play an important underpinning role in novel sensor technology, a key enabler for advances in the Internet of Things and smart systems (Evidence source 5,9,10).
- Yole, Status of the MEMS Industry 2016, (2016)
- Yole, BioMEMS: Microsystems for Healthcare Applications 2016, (2016)
- Yole, 2017 Microfluidic Applications in the Pharmaceutical, Life Sciences, In-Vitro Diagnostic, and Medical Device Markets, (2017)
- P&S Market Research, Industry Insight: Microfluidic Devices Market Development and Demand Forecast to 2020, (2015)
- Knowledge Transfer Network, UK Sensors Community Mapping Report, (2014)
- Analysis of EPSRC portfolio data including current and past investments.
- Community engagement, including focus group discussion, (2013)
- Minerva, Nanotech Cluster and Industry Landscape in Japan, (2014)
- TSensors Summit for Trillion Sensor Roadmap, (2013)
- McKinsey Global Institute, Internet of Things: Mapping the Value Beyond the Hype, (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.
We aim to maintain this area as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio.
We aim to maintain this area as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio.
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 microsystems (GoW)
Search EPSRC's research and training grants.