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Minister Announces £7M West Midlands Technology Boost

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LONDON, England, Sept. 7, 2006 -- British government Industry and Regions Minister Margaret Hodge today announced a multimillion pound project in the West Midlands to unleash the commercial potential of cutting-edge micro and nanotechnology.

The project, Materials Solutions, has been set up with a £5 million grant from the Department of Trade and Industry and a further £2 million from the Advantage West Midlands regional development agency. It will start in January on the University of Birmingham campus and will be a national center of nanotechnology expertise providing prototypes and research which will help businesses solve challenges in new ways, Hodge said. In the automotive industry, the center will help develop cars which use fuel more efficiently and with cleaner emissions.

The minister made the announcement during a visit to the region which includes unveiling a £30 million engineering center near Birmingham Airport for Airbus, which is expected to create 100 new high-quality engineering jobs.

Hodge said, "The West Midlands is often described as the heart of UK manufacturing, which makes it the perfect location for Materials Solutions. This project will help industry access cutting-edge university research to diversify and modernize the West Midlands economy and spread the benefits across the UK. The DTI is investing £90 million in nanotechnology to help UK industry to match the best in the world."

The project will form part of an area of high-tech activity -- the Central Technology Belt -- stretching between Aston Science Park in north Birmingham to Malvern in Worcestershire.

This funding is from the third competition under the Micro and Nanotechnology Capital Facilities Programme. The first competiton awarded £3 million to Innovation in Nanotechnology Exploitation (INEX), an industry-based facility at Newcastle University, in August 2004. The second call awarded £20 million to eight projects in March 2005. A total of £53 million is expected to be spent on facilities as a result of the remaining grants to come from the third call of the Capital Facilities Programme, which will be announced this fall.

Nanotechnology uses the science of microscopically small particles to make existing processes more efficient and environmentally friendly. The Birmingham project is expected to create 25 jobs directly and generate an income of £2.5 million a year. In the longer term, nanotechnology is expected to be part of a worldwide market worth £1 trillion by 2013.

John Edwards, chief executive of Advantage West Midlands, said, "The arrival of Materials Solutions is another clear example that our region is beginning to emerge as a powerful force for future technologies. It demonstrates how the region's economy continues to develop and diversify following the collapse of MG Rover. There is hope that in time the project will be a key part of the revival of the Longbridge area."

Carl Brancher, interim chief executive of Materials Solutions, said, "We will focus on providing solutions to reduced energy consumption, emissions and weight, and to assist the performance of companies in the West Midlands and beyond by developing rapid prototyping processes for new products."

In July 2003, Lord Sainsbury announced that a total of £90 million would be spent on collaborative research (£50 million) and developing a new network of micro- and nanotechnology facilities (£40 million). Working closely with the 12 regional development agencies, the DTI is developing a market-based focus for facilities, people and organizations.

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Sep 2006
The use of atoms, molecules and molecular-scale structures to enhance existing technology and develop new materials and devices. The goal of this technology is to manipulate atomic and molecular particles to create devices that are thousands of times smaller and faster than those of the current microtechnologies.
Advantage West MidlandsDTIHodgeindustrialMaterials SolutionsmicronanotechnologyNews & FeaturesprogrammeResearch & TechnologyUKWest Midlands

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