Top Moments of 2018
2018 was another year of strong performance for CPI.
We continued to work closely with SMEs, universities, large corporates and our partners in local and national Government to build infrastructure and enable the integration and translation of ideas and concepts into robust manufacturing processes.
That work was further strengthened by confirmation of a £107m Government funding package and the extension of our geographical footprint into Scotland with the announcement of the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre.
Throughout the year, we continued to focus on exploiting the commercial opportunities and addressing the manufacturing challenges around the Internet of Things (IoT). Describing a world in which everyday physical objects can communicate and exchange data with one another wirelessly over the internet, IoT offers endless opportunities for product developers to embed intelligent functionality into any surface or object.
Particularly pertinent to this was the opening of our state-of-the-art printable electronics facility in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, which provides expertise and cutting-edge equipment to help companies exploit opportunities using IoT.
The centre has the capability to create rolls of thin, flexible inlays containing multiple electronic components that can be converted into labels or embedded into smart products or wearable goods.
Our printable electronics expertise was intrinsic to a number of projects’ development in 2018. This included support for Craig Downs and mymo, a wearable sock using artificial intelligence to gauge an athlete’s gait. By embedding electronics into the sock, Mr Downs’ company, Shoes2Run, can measure how feet perform during a short walk, jog or run.
Gathered data is then sent to a smartphone app, via IoT, with the information used to direct athletes to the most suitable footwear on the market, minimising their risk of injury. We helped Mr Downs by designing and implementing electronics to log sensor measurements and wireless integration into an app and offline tool for algorithm development.
We also worked alongside Pireta Limited to support the scale-up of wearable technology in textiles. The technology metallises individual fibres on fabrics in selective patterns, without changing its physical and mechanical properties.
Using our expertise in hybrid and stretchable electronics, we supported Pireta’s work on a unique process to make durable, flexible interconnecting electrodes that avoid changing fabric feel and performance. Pireta’s patent pending technology has the potential to enable truly wearable smart electronic systems through the attachment of copper within textile yarns.
One of the biggest stories of the year focused upon our commitment to accelerating the development of a new generation of manufacturing processes in the healthcare sector.
This work will be delivered by the £56 million, state-of-the-art Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre in Renfrewshire, Scotland. Led by CPI, in partnership with the University of Strathclyde, the Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership and founding industry partners AstraZeneca and GSK, the centre will ensure the UK is a technology and innovation leader in small molecule pharmaceutical and fine chemical manufacturing.
The facility will incorporate capabilities for development and manufacturing of drug substances and drug products in a GMP-capable environment, which will aid the materials quantities used in process development to be minimised, and timelines to be accelerated to achieve just-in-time, right-first-time and real-time-release manufacturing principles.
Dr Dave Tudor is Managing Director of the facility, which, when built, could create up to 80 high-value jobs by 2023. It is supported by a £13 million investment from UK Research and Innovation, through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, along with £15 million from Scottish Enterprise and £7 million from AstraZeneca and GSK.
Elsewhere, our expertise in the healthcare sector has seen us work on a number of projects and collaborations.
We supported the continued evolution of the Future Vaccine Manufacturing Hub, which is focused on delivering high-quality, low-cost vaccines to prevent outbreaks such as Ebola and Zika, and partnered with Gyroscope Therapeutics, Freeline Therapeutics and NHS Blood and Transplant’s Clinical Biotechnology Centre to develop and design a manufacturing platform to produce novel AAV gene therapies.
Further programmes included support for Camena Bioscience’s endeavours to develop its revolutionary small molecule detection technology, while we successfully performed process development for recombinantly produced botulinum toxin alongside Ipsen Biopharma.
Additionally, we worked with Cobra Biologics and GE Healthcare Life Sciences on the development of cost-effective regenerative medicines, and saw our contribution to the AMECRYS collaboration hit an important milestone.
We also added to our state-of-the-art facilities, which included the opening of our National Formulation Centre at NETPark, in Sedgefield, County Durham.
The site allows businesses and academic partners to collaborate, develop, prove and commercialise next generation formulated products and processes, while being more efficient in the use of resources to generate further value for the UK formulation industry. It is home to world-class laboratories and accompanying expertise focusing on measurement, high-throughput formulation, process chemistry, process technology, complex particles, nanomaterials, composites, and chemistry and dispersions.
Work also progressed during 2018 on the adjoining National Healthcare Photonics Centre, which will support the development of light-based technologies into commercially-viable medical technology products. Providing a hub for work on innovative methods of diagnosing disease, imaging systems — including endoscopy — and a variety of light-based treatments, the cutting-edge facility will support CPI’s business and academic partners’ journeys in taking products to commercialisation.
In August, the building that will eventually house both centres was officially christened as The Coxon Building. It was named after, and unveiled by, former CPI board chairman Bob Coxon OBE.
We continued our mission to develop technologies and processes that support clean growth and strengthen the Government’s low carbon blueprint during 2018.
Working closely with partners and using our integrated, open-access demonstration facilities to deliver practical support, we were able to carry out techno-economic analysis of processes and systems to demonstrate their low carbon, resource efficient credentials. This included projects as part of Downing Street’s Faraday Battery Challenge and a drive to revise plastic packaging production methods.
Collaborating on the Lithium Innovations for Future Electric vehicles (LIFE) project with lead partner OXIS Energy, we supported the development of next generation batteries with the capability to extend electric vehicles’ mileage range.
We also collaborated on a solid-state lithium battery project, again as part of the Government’s Faraday Challenge initiative, to deliver ultra-fast battery charging for electric vehicles.
At the end of 2018, we announced our participation on a project to cut plastic pollution, which involves driving forward the development of food packaging that is less damaging to the environment. Working alongside industry partners, we have used our polymer chemistry research and materials processing and characterisation capability to support the development of alternatives to commonly used fossil-based polymers, which cannot be consumed by nature and have resulted in the continued pollution of land and seas when leaked to the natural environment.
Our commitment to the workers of tomorrow was reflected in 2018, with our apprentices playing a significant role in driving forward the national skills agenda.
The achievements of Joe Henderson and Michael Stokes were championed in the Technicians Make It Happen campaign, as part of Newcastle’s Great Exhibition of the North.
We also strengthened our commitment to the next generation by joining an employer-members organisation focused on lowering youth unemployment and increasing skills across the UK. We are now part of The 5% Club, which aims to drive up recruitment of apprentices, sponsored students and graduates by creating ‘earn and learn’ training opportunities.
Members of the club aspire to have 5% of their workforce in formalised training within five years. However, we are already above the benchmark, with 8% of staff in such schemes.
This was further built upon when our talented apprentice Jenny Pitt took gold in the Business Apprentice Award at the EEF Future Manufacturing Awards. Jenny, who works as a Learning and Development apprentice, beat competition from across the region after impressing judges with her commitment, ambition and drive to pursue a career in Human Resources within the process and manufacturing industry.
Our valuable contribution to next generation manufacturing was emphasised in July when the Government confirmed a £107m funding package.
The commitment, announced during a Cabinet visit to the North-East, covers a five-year period and will deliver fresh impetus to our extensive track-record of helping industry bridge the gap between innovation and commercialisation.
The funding boost, part of a wider £1bn pot, will be delivered as part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult programme, which stimulates and supports the commercial application of new technologies through the development of innovative processes.
As the process manufacturing partner of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult network, we will use the money to maintain our strong track-record in supporting partners across markets such as healthcare, electronics, energy, aerospace, chemical processing, food and agriculture, transport and construction.
Our important role in translating new ideas into commercialisation and improving existing products and processes was highlighted during a visit from Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen.
Mr Houchen toured our facilities at Wilton, Redcar, where he learned about our successful track-record in bioprocessing and biotechnology, as well as our expertise in the biologics, formulation and printed electronics sectors.
He was also keen to find out more about our work with California-based operator Calysta to tackle global sustainability challenges.
Later in the year, we played a key role in a film for the Chemical Industries Association (CIA) Annual Dinner, in London. A vehicle to champion the fantastic work carried out in the sector over the last 12 months, organisers used the film, created by ITN Productions, to highlight CPI as an exemplar organisation for innovation in the UK.
However, it wasn’t the first time the CIA had extolled our abilities. In June, judges named us as their Chemical Industry Service Provider of the Year at a ceremony in Newcastle. The honour recognised our support for organisations across development, proof of concept and commercialisation of products and processes.
We were also a finalist in the Skills category, for our approach to workforce development, which has helped a large number of employees strengthen their careers.
Elsewhere, our partners were celebrating awards recognition of their own.
Stream Bio Limited, which develops and manufactures a range of revolutionary bioimaging molecular probes, was presented with an Institute of Physics Business Start-Up Award. Bestowed in acknowledgement of Stream Bio’s novel conjugated polymer nanoparticles (CPN™) technology, notably the company’s implementation of physics into CPN™, the firm was also praised for its entrepreneurship and excellence in innovation.
We have worked closely with Stream Bio to bring its technology to commercialisation, with our formulation facilities and biologics expertise assisting with scale-up and development and proof of concept data activities, respectively.
Graphene Composites (GC), a nanotech company known for developing life-saving ballistic armour with our support, was also shortlisted as a finalist in the Innovation in Materials category at the Composites UK Industry Awards 2018. The firm’s GC Shield™ — which combines graphene with aerogel — is extremely lightweight and resilient, with its armour capable of withstanding a .357 Magnum bullet. GC has collaborated with us to ensure the most effective route from initial designs through to the production of working prototypes.
Reassured by our capabilities and industry expertise, GC signed a co-development agreement in 2016, with initial work starting thanks to funding from our European Regional Development Fund programme.