Major government funding for Greater Manchester innovation in materials, health and AI

University of ManchesterThe University of Manchester is at the heart of four new projects that have received a share of millions of pounds awarded to the Greater Manchester Innovation Accelerator, to turn cutting-edge technologies into businesses in Greater Manchester – in order to boost the region’s economy and improve residents’ health.

As part of the government’s Innovation Accelerator Fund, the four projects focus on the very latest technology around genomics, medical diagnostics, advanced materials and artificial intelligence. The bids were coordinated by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the funding is for two years.

The funding, awarded by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), has been allocated to innovative projects in sectors where Greater Manchester has existing research strengths.

The projects are:

The Manchester Turing Innovation Hub, is led by the University of Manchester, working with a consortium of business, academic and public sector organisations. The project aims to accelerate Greater Manchester’s £5bn digital economy by supporting existing start-ups and creating new ones – especially in the field of artificial intelligence. It will also help to develop skills in the region with a particular focus on women, and under-represented groups in the industry. The Hub will bridge the gap between cutting-edge research and business, and will have centres across the region from which to coordinate activity. With no city having a global lead in AI commercialisation, the project aims to position Greater Manchester at the forefront, which would have a transformative effect on the regional economy and jobs.

Residents in eight out of the ten local authorities in GM spend more of their life in poor health, and instances of smoking and obesity and associated health issues are more prevalent than the national average. The Greater Manchester Advanced Diagnostics Accelerator aims to address this. It is led by Health Innovation Manchester, hosted by Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and partnered with the University. Focussing on liver, heart and lung disease, programme outputs are designed to open market opportunities for local businesses and support NHS cultural change from reactive acute care to proactive community prevention, resulting in better health outcomes and reduced demand for hospital services.

The Development and Validation of Technology for Time Critical Genomic Testing (DEVOTE) programme will be led by The University of Manchester. It focuses on biomarkers, which are chemicals or signals in the body which can be used to diagnose disease or predict future health. At the moment there is a bottleneck between the discovery of new biomarkers, and their use as a tool to help patients. DEVOTE aims to change all that by developing raid tests which can be used at the bedside by clinicians. This will be done through a partnership between the University, Health Innovation Manchester and local businesses. Greater Manchester is already a leader in this field and the new funding will create a legacy not only in people’s health but in a culture which makes new advances in future years.

The Sustainable Materials Translational Research Centre is a partnership between the University of Manchester, including the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre and the Henry Royce Institute, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and Rochdale Development Agency. Sustainable materials are urgently needed to help reach global climate goals but there is a lack of capacity to produce these, and to scale up production of new products which use them. Greater Manchester is well positioned to solve this problem, with a rich history of developing materials (notably at The University of Manchester). The project will help connect local businesses to the national supply chain, and to the outstanding materials research in the city, it will support the creation of new businesses, and attract inward investment, with a particular focus on the Atom Valley Mayoral Development zone, bringing new jobs and opportunities to Rochdale, Bury, Oldham and beyond.

Professor Richard Jones, Vice-President for Regional Innovation and Civic Engagement at The University of Manchester said:  “The Innovation Accelerator is about taking the great research in GM’s universities, and translating that into good jobs, inclusive economic growth, and better health outcomes for citizens across the whole of Greater Manchester. 

“These four projects highlight the University of Manchester’s research strengths in advanced materials, in digital technologies, and in health sciences, and demonstrate our commitment to working together with business, the NHS, the other GM universities and FE colleges, and local government in the city region for the benefit of the people who live here.

“We are very much looking forward to working with our partners on these projects, and we welcome the funding to all of the other projects in Greater Manchester that has been announced.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “Greater Manchester’s selection as one of three Innovation Accelerator regions demonstrates the Government’s confidence in our innovation ecosystem. The projects being backed are undertaking world-leading research to address some of the biggest challenges we face.

“They also align with the sectors where Greater Manchester has emerging or established strengths, like advanced materials, artificial intelligence (AI) and diagnostics. We look forward to working with partners to ensure this funding supports the growth of our future industries and delivers greater prosperity for our people.”