Blog 05 Jun 2024 

CPI’s two decades of extraordinary advances

As we celebrate 20 years of innovation and impact at CPI, let’s take a look at the past two decades and the advances we enabled with our expertise.

Matthew Herbert

Matthew Herbert

Director of Marketing Communications

Scientific and technological innovation have soared in the 20 years since CPI launched its facilities and services. We reflect on CPI’s contributions to some of the most transformative breakthroughs in that time.

In 2004, CPI embarked on its journey and, in the 20 years that have followed, has become part of the fabric of scientific innovation. 

In that initial year, the biggest science story was the discovery of water on Mars. US journal Science put this at No 1 on its list of breakthroughs. 

Back on Earth, science was also pioneering condensates, genomes, the shape of water and controversial human embryo cloning in South Korea (later discredited).

Just three years later in 2007, CPI helped make the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell-powered lighthouse a reality, a beacon that heralded the current and future of scientific innovation. 

We also launched our first centre, the National Industrial Biotechnology Facility, a state-of-the-art facility to help companies assess, develop and scale-up innovative and sustainable biotechnology 

Since then, we have continued to grow, adding more facilities and expertise to bolster the array of ideas and innovations we have helped bring to life, scale up and commercialise. Here are some of the biggest science advances we have contributed to over the past two decades. 


When the term was coined in 2017, the agrifoodtech startups sector was valued at $10.1 billion. By 2022 it was $29.6 billion. 

This sector faces tough challenges in adoption, through cost and geography, but its potential – and the critical need to address widespread global hunger by mid-century – puts it at the top of our list. 

According to McKinsey, the deployment of AI digital systems will result in higher yields, better nutrition, and greater sustainability and resilience. The Institute for Global Change predicts that AI is the tool which will maximise crop yields, reduce livestock methane, preserve water and create sustainable meat alternatives. 

At CPI we’re building a model for farming and bioprocessing fit for the future through a number of cutting-edge projects, such as our work on novel food. Alternative proteins like cultivated meat can help decarbonise food production, yet its production requires a complex soup of essential nutrients to grow. We worked with 3D Bio-Tissues to develop a cost-effective and ethical source of bio-equivalent tissues for clinical and cellular agriculture. We’re supporting the alternative protein revolution with our food-grade facilities and expertise, to deliver sustainable and economically viable alternatives to farmed animal proteins. 


While nuclear fusion’s net energy gain was the headline in 2022, its clean power potential may not be realised until 2050. Battery technologies are on course to make an impact much more rapidly, a critical innovation as we look to accelerate the energy transition away from fossil fuels. A series of leaps in the field, made throughout this decade, are set to change our lives before 2030.

This year CATL announced a new condensed” battery with 500 Wh/​kg – which may be a game-changer for aviation. 

However, global emissions from land travel dwarf aviation’s and improving battery performance is pivotal to creating clean, viable, affordable EVs. At CPI we’re on a mission to increase battery sustainability, performance and longevity.

LiNa Energy’s sodium-nickel-chloride battery is an example of just that. It’s a new battery technology that could replace lithium-cobalt ones as a cheaper, smaller, safer and more efficient alternative. 

We’re driven by the search for the optimal raw materials, designing for disassembly, reuse and recyclability – and we have the facilities to realise these goals. This was given a significant funding boost in 2023, which will be used to set up the Advanced Materials Battery Industrialisation Centre. We believe it’s essential to build a domestic supply chain and overcome the social, environmental and resource scarcity risks of extracting and processing precious metals and minerals.

Health Tech

Although health-related wearable tech has been changing lives since 1317 when the first eye glasses were (arguably) invented, 2009 was a standout year. This was when the first FitBit tracker was launched and revolutionised data for runners by recording their efforts through an internal motion detector enabled by wireless technology. 

Fast-forward 15 years and wearable tech is transforming medicine in the form of smart patches, drug delivery monitoring, devices for measuring biomarkers in sweat, blood or interstitial fluid, and continuous glucose monitoring for people with diabetes. 

We’ve helped startup CLEWS Medical Limited to develop its Early Warning Scores device by harnessing photonics technology. Used in hospitals to signal patient deterioration and guide swift medical intervention, this wearable, wireless monitoring tech is accurate and cost effective. As well as sharing access to our state-of-the-art facilities and world class expertise, we are able to connect startups like CLEWS to sources of funding and steer them through regulation, accelerating their journey to market.


In 2003 a team at Manchester University discovered a single-atom layer of material. Graphene is the thinnest material possible, yet 200 times stronger than steel. Transparent and flexible, it also conducts electricity. 

Combined with other materials, graphene is regarded as the ultimate super-lightweight, sustainable multi-tasker and is being developed as a sensor material for NASA.

On the ground, CPI has provided technical facilities for UK startup Evari Bikes Ltd, to build strong, lightweight e‑bikes for the commuter market. Graphene is a key material in the composite design, used for its strength and feather weight as well as its sensor capacity for frame integrity monitoring. 

Materials that do not endure are also key to a sustainable future. Compostable packaging alternatives are crucial to the supermarket sector’s sustainability goals. The global market value of bioplastics was $6.04 billion in 2018 and predicted to be around $15.5 billion by 2028

CPI partnered with Oceanium Ltd – a company turning seaweed into Oceanware™ bio-packaging as part of its IMPACT project, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Tackling the problem of marine plastics while enabling the UK’s blue economy, and developing the UK seaweed farming industry, offers the benefit of a sustainable nearshore supply chain.


The most impactful pharmaceutical event of this century was the roll out of Covid-19 vaccinations in 2021 – the fastest in global history. The speed and scale of innovation, test and delivery, supercharged the vaccines sector in value and relevance. 

CPI has worked on vaccine development projects with multiple partners and is part of the UK Government’s Vaccine Taskforce and the Future Vaccine Manufacturing Hub, recognised for its leading skills in developing and scaling up vaccines. 

Accommodating the fast-growing need for cutting-edge facilities for such work, CPI opened the RNA Centre of Excellence next to its’ National Biologics Manufacturing Centre in Darlington. This is currently the only site in the UK which has the capability to develop and manufacture lipid nanoparticle encapsulated messenger and self-amplifying RNA vaccines, ready for early-phase clinical use. 

Meanwhile, CPI’s Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre in Renfrewshire, Scotland is pulling international investment into Scottish life sciences as it builds better productivity and sustainability into the sector, benefiting people worldwide by developing new and improved medicines.

Where next?

The landscape of scientific and technological advancements is evolving more rapidly than ever, presenting both challenges and opportunities. At CPI, we are not just witnesses to this transformation; we are active participants and facilitators. As we step into the next 20 years, we remain committed to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, fostering breakthroughs that propel industries forward and enhance global well-being.

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