The government is to award £7m of funding to research projects promoting innovation in additive manufacturing in the UK.
Companies are being invited to put forward proposals for collaborative research and development projects that focus mainly on innovations to help businesses bring product made by additive manufacturing to market more quickly.
Additive manufacturing or ‘3D printing’, where products are built up layer by layer from a computer design, is widely seen as a technology that could help Britain rebuild its manufacturing sector by enabling the cheaper production of complex, high-tech products and more small-scale manufacturing.
The ‘Inspiring New Design Freedoms in Additive Manufacturing’ competition, launched yesterday by science minister David Willetts, is funded through the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and three of the research councils.
He said: ‘3D printing technologies offer huge potential for UK businesses to compete successfully by embracing radically different manufacturing techniques that could be applied across a wide variety of global market sectors, from aerospace to jewellery.
‘We believe this new investment will help UK companies make the step change necessary to reach new markets and gain competitive advantage.
‘Building on £20m of previous TSB support for additive manufacturing innovation, it will help secure more of this game-changing high-value activity for the UK, driving economic growth and enhancing quality of life.’
TSB chief executive Iain Gray said: ‘By working together to stimulate innovation in this exciting and challenging area, we aim to accelerate the transition from fundamental research to the creation of new design, production and supply-chain competences, capitalising on work we have previously funded.
‘We want to make the UK a world leader in 3D printing. We are setting our sights high.’
A recent report argued the government needed to introduce a flexible 3D printing policy to protect designers’ intellectual property while encouraging the growth of additive manufacturing.