The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) (a part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult) and Durham University today announced a new collaboration to help SMEs in County Durham to accelerate the commercialisation of nanomaterial-enhanced products, supported with funds from the European Regional Development Fund.

The project, entitled ‘Collaborative Outreach in Applied Surface engineering Technologies’ (COAST), will support the development of customised nanoparticles from university research into commercially viable engineered surfaces and composites. The partnership brings together Durham University’s expertise in nanomaterials and synthesis of engineered particles, with CPI’s capabilities to enhance up-scaling, prototyping and applications of the technology, in order to help local SMEs realise the market value of their innovations.

Nanomaterials and surface engineering are forecast to be a major disruptive technology, with their lightweight and enhanced properties presenting energy-efficient applications in industries such as aerospace, automotive and offshore. The project is exclusively available to businesses in County Durham, meaning COAST will capitalise on the developing nanomaterial ecosystem in the area to attract inward investment and create high value new jobs in both the SME community and supply chain. The region is home to a significant proportion of the UK’s nanomaterials capability, as exemplified by CPI’s work on graphene.

The COAST project will be delivered from existing CPI facilities within the North East Technology Park (NETPark) site and a bespoke laboratory at Durham University. To underpin the programme, CPI has also developed a wide range of business support tools to promote innovation, product design and business excellence. It is hoped that the COAST project will establish successful links between higher education and businesses to create sustainable delivery of engineered surfaces beyond culmination of the project in 2020.

“This ambitious project aims to support the development and growth of small County Durham companies in the exciting technology of nanomaterials,” said Dr. Robin Brinham, Project Manager of the COAST project at CPI. “Combining cutting-edge research from Durham University with state-of-the-art scale-up and testing facilities at CPI will provide a powerful springboard for the growth of this high technology industry in County Durham, and we are proud to be a part of that.”

Professor Karl Coleman, Head of the Department of Chemistry at Durham University and academic lead for the COAST project said: “This is a great opportunity for CPI and Durham to work together to help local industry take a national lead in the commercialisation of nanomaterial-enhanced products and materials. The Chemistry Department and Durham University are committed to supporting the local region and are looking forward to working with and propelling forward our high-tech local SMEs.”