Insights

Material Gains: GMLEP white paper sets out future vision for Greater Manchester

What is the future for global cities and how is innovation in advanced materials shaping a world which is greener, better connected, and more equal?

A new white paper from the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership has been published to answer the big questions around the future of our cities.

‘Material Gains: Building Better Cities for People and the Planet’ imagines Greater Manchester in 2038 – a city-region enabled by low carbon economic growth, aided by advanced materials and initiatives benefiting the Northern community with socio-economic benefits.

The futuristic vision includes the views of leading commentators from the fields of science, industry, and academia, including voices from The University of Manchester, MIDAS, Graphene@Manchester, and two businesses innovating in the region.

In a foreword, Chair of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership, Lou Cordwell, outlines the collective vision for the future as set out by the panellists:

“By 2038, they suggest a future of vertical urban farms; rainwater purification units utilising graphene membranes; road surfaces which defy potholes and charge the batteries in the driverless lightweight vehicles which pass along them.

“The air is clean, and people have vast array of career opportunities in innovative industries that have not yet been imagined. Transportation is net carbon neutral, integrated, affordable and efficient. The cityscape remains familiar but incredible new architectural structures are possible due to enhance building materials.”

The document captures some of the insight and intelligence provided by key thinkers and is intended to stimulate further conversation about Greater Manchester’s role in influencing the future for global cities, imagining a new future of skilled jobs and economic benefits.

 

Salford up nine places in Complete University Guide League table

The University of Salford has risen nine places in the Complete University Guide 2022 ​from 92nd to 83rd out of 130 institutions. 

Across subject areas, the University’s ranking has improved in just over two-thirds of the subject tables, with nine subjects where we are in the top 50% of the subject table and improving rank on last year. These subjects are Medical Technology & Bioengineering, Music, Architecture, Sociology, Art & Design, Counselling Psychotherapy & Occupational Therapy, Geography & Environmental Science, Computer Science and Marketing – which is the best performer, ranking 25th out of 92 and rising 50 places.

Dr Sam Grogan, Pro Vice-Chancellor Student Experience at the University of Salford, commented:

“Given all of the ongoing challenges of the past year this improvement is really pleasing and I would like to sincerely thank all colleagues for the work that they have done. The gains that we have made show that, although we still have a long way to go, we are moving in the right direction.”

The Complete University Guide rankings are based on ten measures: Student Satisfaction, Research Quality, Research Intensity, Entry Standards, Student: Staff ratio; Spending on Academic Services; Spending on Facilities; Graduate Prospects Outcomes; Graduate Prospects on Track, and Degree Completion.

Read more about The University of Salford here.

 

The University of Salford

The University of Salford

Annual report reveals acceleration of Health Innovation Manchester’s work

Health Innovation Manchester has published its annual Impact Report for 2020-2021, focussing on how the organisation has accelerated health innovation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report examines how HInM played a role as an integrated academic health science and innovation system, working on behalf of the Greater Manchester city region.

Health innovation is among Greater Manchester’s frontier sector strengths identified with the Greater Manchester Economic Vision and the Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy.

HInM’s interactive report, titled “Accelerating Health Innovation during COVID-19”, features thought-leadership pieces from the executive team, project case studies and impact data from the past 12 months.

It features information across the different pillars of HInM’s work:

  • Digital Disrupters – including accelerating vital data sharing through the GM Care Record, the rollout of a UK-first COVID-19 tracker for care homes and creation of the Smokefree Pregnancy digital platform
  • Health and Care Catalysts – including HInM’s role in a Greater Manchester-wide response to mental health, remotely monitoring patients through COVID Oximetry @Home and supporting pregnant women at risk of pre-eclampsia. It also features HInM’s work as an Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) and collaborating as part of the national AHSN Network.
  • Groundbreaking Researchers – including supporting the Greater Manchester Research Rapid Response Group to unite clinical and academic COVID-19 research. It also features updates from the Manchester Academic Health Science Centre (MAHSC) domains and the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Greater Manchester research themes.
  • Industry partners – including support offered to SMEs, work undertaken as part of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) programmes, the latest successful Momentum Fund winners and the launch of the Greater Manchester Research and Innovation Health Accelerator Programme.
  • Public and Community Involvement and Engagement – including how HInM works with PCIE groups and wider networks to ensure that the voices and lived experiences of local people are the heart of research and innovation.
  • The Utilisation Management Unit – including the support provided to urgent and emergency care coordination across Greater Manchester and facilitating learning and improvements during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • HInM’s commitment to equality, diversion and inclusion also features, as does an updated on the innovation pipeline approach, governance and finance.

Professor Ben Bridgewater, Chief Executive of Health Innovation Manchester, said:

“As the pandemic progressed in the first few months of 2020 and began to significantly impact our NHS and care services, we needed to rapidly mobilise and play an integral part of the COVID-19 response. Health Innovation Manchester has worked hard to stand up and play its part in this as an integrated academic health science and innovation system, working on behalf of the Greater Manchester city region.”

He continued: “We would like to thank all our partners for their cooperation and collaboration during the pandemic, as well as continuing to share vital learnings and insights in order for us to constantly improve and develop as a system.”

Health Innovation Manchester annual impact report – 2020 to 2021 is available here.

Greater Manchester at the leading edge of Precision Health – Health Innovation Manchester

Senior leaders join Northern Gritstone investment company

Two of the UK’s most respected business leaders have joined the senior management team of the new investment company designed to maximise the impact and commercialisation of university research and development in the north of England.

Lord Jim O’Neill and Duncan Johnson will serve respectively as Non-Executive Chairman and Chief Executive of Northern Gritstone, founded by the Universities of Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield to facilitate the commercialisation of university science and technology-related Intellectual Property in the north of England.

Lord O’Neill will assume key responsibilities helping to establish the exciting future for Northern Gritstone.

He has been immersed in many matters related to the Northern Powerhouse in recent years, having Chaired the Cities Growth Commission in 2013-14, and going on to help the government implement its Northern Powerhouse strategy as Commercial Secretary to the Treasury in 2015-16. He is currently Vice-Chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

Lord O’Neill has nearly 40 years’ experience in capital markets and financial services, being best known for his near 20 years as a partner at Goldman Sachs, where he was Chairman of GSAM, after previously being the firm’s Chief Economist.

Duncan Johnson joins Northern Gritstone as Chief Executive Officer from Caledonia Investments, the FTSE 250-listed investment trust, where he was Head of Caledonia Private Capital for the past decade. Prior to this, Duncan was a Founding Partner at RJD Partners, a lower and mid-market UK private equity fund manager.

Lord O’Neill, Chairman, Northern Gritstone, said:

“From the Industrial Revolution through to the early Digital Revolution, the North has helped to power our nation’s history. Gritstone’s mission is to take this one step further and unlock the huge commercial opportunity of our science and technology capabilities.

“For many years, while the region has often been a leader in new inventions – from Healthtech to Artificial Intelligence and Analytics, Advanced Manufacturing, Life and Biosciences – it has yet to progress these into larger, successful businesses, employing more people in higher paying jobs. Universities in the North, historically, have raised only a fraction of the funding achieved by others. More long-term capital to help foster and develop emerging technologies is at the centre of what is needed to determine long-term success for the Northern Powerhouse.

I am a passionate believer that the North needs to boost its productivity, helping the country to achieve a stronger trend rate of sustainable growth, and one that is more equitable and inclusive of more regions. The concept and ambition of Gritstone sits firmly with much of what I have tried to encourage in recent years, and its introduction should help further the momentum emerging in the north of England. Our ambition is to act, in partnership with the Founding Universities, as a powerful catalyst for innovation to help drive a new era of commercial success across the North.”

Duncan Johnson, Chief Executive, Northern Gritstone, said:

“I am honoured and delighted to be leading Northern Gritstone. Our ambition is to drive returns by establishing a world leading ecosystem of support and funding, built upon the concepts and inventions that the Founding Universities and the Company’s other partners, have developed.

“I have been particularly impressed with how the firm has brought together a highly experienced team which blends deep investment management with business building expertise, all united by a core belief that profitable organisations delivering top quartile returns to shareholders should have a wider societal purpose.

“Jim and I will be working closely together to grow Northern Gritstone’s origination platform and build on our long-term partnerships with the Founding Universities to deliver the latent potential that so evidently exists.

“The current strong pipeline of academic spin-outs provides a unique opportunity for investors to support and participate in the substantial growth of IP rich companies in the North.”

Commenting on the appointment of the leadership team, Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, GM LEP board member and President & Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester and Professor Koen Lamberts, President & Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield said:

“We are excited to have created Northern Gritstone. The investment it is attracting will transform our capacity to develop – at pace – our pipeline of excellent spin-out opportunities for the benefit of the Northern Powerhouse economy.

“To be able to attract such a high-quality leadership team is testament to the strong track record of our universities as engines of innovation – by collaborating and commercialising our world-class research we can create real impact and tackle global challenges. We welcome Jim and Duncan on board and look forward to great success over the coming years.”

The University of Manchester

The University of Manchester

Rediscovered Victorian brewery wells to provide Manchester’s new Mayfield Park with sustainable irrigation

Irrigation scheme will support delivery of 24-acre ‘shovel ready site’ identified by GM LEP and GMCA for funding from Government’s Getting Building Fund, supporting Economic Vision’s ambitions for green growth

The developers behind Manchester’s first new public park in 100 years will use water from recently rediscovered Victorian wells as a sustainable source of irrigation.

The construction team delivering Mayfield Park located 12 wells across the 24-acre site.

While many were backfilled or damaged, and have been permanently capped, three wells – the largest of which was used to supply the former Britannia Brewery which was based on the east of the site in the late 19th and early 20th Century – will be reused.

Mayfield Park was one of seven projects in Greater Manchester to receive a share of £54.2m from the UK Government’s Getting Building Fund.

Projects were chosen that would support the Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy agreed with Government by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and GM LEP in 2019.

The Government pledged £23m of investment from its Getting Building Fund – one of the largest investments in any single project – to Mayfield Park.

This investment, delivered through the GMCA, is part of the Government’s strategy to support ‘shovel ready’ schemes that will help to drive economic recovery following the COVID-19 crisis.

The long-term proposals at Mayfield will seek to enhance many of the site’s historic features. The vast depot building beneath the station building has already been transformed into a new cultural venue, Depot Mayfield, which contributed to bringing 330,000 visitors to Mayfield in 2019, after more than 30 years of decline.

Overall, the Mayfield regeneration scheme – one of the largest in the UK – is set to transform a previously derelict part of Manchester’s industrial heritage to deliver 1,500 homes, 1.6m sq ft of market-leading commercial space, 300,000 sq ft of retail and leisure facilities and 14 acres of the new public realm.

The well water has been subject to stringent tests and declared safe for irrigation use.

This means that 20 cubic metres of water per day can be pumped from the wells to keep the park’s hundreds of trees and plants lush and thriving, reducing the burden on the mains supply and providing significant sustainability benefits.

Established in the 1830s, the Britannia Brewery was described in 1888 by the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser as “one of the most important in Lancashire” and was able to produce more than 300 barrels of beer a week.

The plan to reuse the wells is the latest step taken by the Mayfield Partnership – the public-private venture led by U+I – to incorporate Mayfield’s rich history into its new lease of life.

The wells were discovered while archaeologists were on-site cataloguing the historic features of the Mayfield site, which sits adjacent to Piccadilly Station.

They are among several important discoveries made at Mayfield as work on the transformational £1.4bn regeneration scheme gains momentum.

Arlene Van Bosch, development director at U&I said:

“In forming our plans for Mayfield we’ve taken inspiration from the ingenuity that made the area a hive of activity during the industrial revolution. So, it’s entirely fitting that we’re now able to find new uses for some of the historical assets we’ve discovered as we create a stunning new public amenity at Mayfield Park.

“Although Manchester of course does not have any shortage of water, it makes both economic and environmental sense for us to use this amazing natural resource beneath our feet, which clearly further connects us to Mayfield’s industrial past.” 

Achieving green economic growth is a key focus for the Greater Manchester Economic Vision.

 

Mayfield Park

New Mayfield Park (Image Credit: Mayfield Partnership)

Harvard and Manchester pioneer ‘soft’ graphene-containing electrodes that adapt to living tissue

Researchers from The University of Manchester and Harvard University have collaborated on a pioneering project in bioengineering, producing metal-free, hydrogel electrodes that flex to fit the complex shapes inside the human body.

Opening new possibilities for treating brain injuries and other conditions, the research demonstrates the global impact of advanced materials innovation in Greater Manchester.  

Advanced materials and health innovation are among Greater Manchester’s frontier sector strengths, as outlined within the Greater Manchester Economic Vision and Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy.

The study, led by Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering in collaboration with the Laboratory of Soft Biolectronic Interfaces at EPFL in Lausanne and Manchester’s National Graphene Institute (NGI), mixed carbon nanotubes with a water-based, defect-free solution of graphene, originally developed at the NGI by a team led by Professor Cinzia Casiraghi.

Electrodes are frequently used in medicine to monitor or deliver electrical impulses inside and outside the human body, however performance is currently limited by the rigidity of devices that do not match the soft springiness of living tissue, a property known as viscoelasticity. Electrodes may detach under movement or require greater current to affect their intended target because their shape does not fit precisely to the host site.

The key, according to lead authors Ms Christina Tringides and Professor David Mooney from Harvard, was a hydrogel that could mimic the viscoelasticity of tissue, alongside a conductive ink that could also perform well under flexion.

Tringides and Mooney, in collaboration with the Nanomedicine Lab in Manchester, identified a mixture of graphene flakes and carbon nanotubes as the best conductive filler, replacing the use of traditional rigid metals.

“Part of the advantage of these materials is their long and narrow shape,” explained Tringides. “It’s a bit like throwing a box of uncooked spaghetti on the floor – because the noodles are all long and thin, they’re likely to cross each other at multiple points. If you throw something shorter and rounder on the floor, like rice, many of the grains won’t touch at all.”

While the carbon nanotubes used are commercially available, the graphene flake suspension is a process patented by The University of Manchester, currently exploited for printed electronics and biomedical applications. This work demonstrated that you need both materials to achieve optimal electrode performance – carbon nanotubes or graphene alone would not suffice.

Cinzia Casiraghi, Professor of Nanoscience from the NGI and Department of Chemistry at Manchester, said:

“This work demonstrates that high-quality graphene dispersions – made in water by a simple process based on a molecule that one can buy from any chemical supply – have strong potential in bioelectronics. We are very interested in exploiting our graphene (and other 2D materials) inks in this field.”

Kostas Kostarelos, Professor of Nanomedicine and leader of the Nanomedicine Lab, added:

“This truly collaborative effort between three institutions is a step forward in the development of softer, more adaptable and electroactive devices, where traditional technologies based on bulk and rigid materials cannot be applied to soft tissues such as the brain.”

This research in Manchester was supported by the EPSRC Programme Grant 2D Health and the International Centre-to-Centre grant with Harvard. Other funders include the: National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development, Bertarelli Foundation, Wyss Center Geneva, and SNSF Sinergia.

Advanced materials is one of The University of Manchester’s research beacons – examples of pioneering discoveries, interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships that are tackling some of the biggest questions facing the planet.

A version of this article was originally published on the University of Manchester website.

Hydrogel-electrodes

Hydrogel-electrodes (Image credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University)