University experts form Nanofactory

Nanotechnology experts from several Yorkshire universities are taking part in a new programme that could turn advancements in nanoscience into new business opportunities.

The Nanofactory — which brings together nanotechnology experts from the universities of Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam and York — is looking to form partnerships with companies interested in nanotechnology.

The project is part funded by a £1m investment from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme.

It is difficult for most small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to finance research and development to drive nanotechnology innovation forward — particularly so in the current economic climate. The region’s SME spend on research and development is three times lower than the national average.

It is hoped that partnerships with Nanofactory universities will allow SMEs to explore this new area of technology and potentially apply for a range of external funding opportunities such as European Union funding and Technology Strategy Board grants.

Nanofactory director Richard Williams said: ‘This type of research-based activity goes way beyond the usual consultancy support that SMEs can access at universities and it aims to provide much more than short-term problem solving. Nanotechnology doesn’t have to be the domain of large companies and multinationals — there are opportunities for all sizes of company.’

The project will launch a series of sector-specific workshops around the region in early 2010. In these workshops, the benefits of new nanotechnology advances will be outlined and discussed with delegates.

Trevor Shaw, Yorkshire Forward’s executive director of finance, said that this project provides a unique opportunity for the region to boost spend on research and development.

‘For universities, it will allow them to devise and deliver new research programmes that have real impact,’ he said. ‘Most importantly, for SMEs, it enables them to leverage technology expertise in the region that can underpin future business opportunities to secure their future competitiveness.’