University and Unilever launch collaborative project

New research aims to embed digital tools in formulated product manufacture

A new multimillion pound collaborative research project - led by The University of Manchester and Unilever - will pioneer the application of digital manufacturing techniques in formulated products.

The formulated products industry covers a wide range of sectors including home care, personal care, agrochemicals, coatings, foods, paints, oil drilling fluids, lubricants, formulated pharmaceuticals. According to Innovate UK, the Government’s innovation agency, the formulated products industry has a global market value of ~£1,000 Bn p.a. Despite this large economic impact, there are still relatively few Industry 4.0 tools and industry relies on experience and physical experimentation.

Professor Hardacre Head of the School of Chemical Engineering & Analytical Science, at The University of Manchester, explained: “Our project will target R&D capabilities in the process sector with the aim to improve the sustainability of products and increase capacity in factories. Although there have been impressive strides in engineering models for formulated product manufacture, many of the underpinning academic and industrial practices build on traditional chemical engineering approaches rather than revolutionise them.”

This could all change with a new collaborative research project, ‘Centre in Advanced Fluid Engineering for Digital Manufacturing’ (CAFE4DM), funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The project brings together world class researchers from The University of Manchester, Unilever and STFC who already work together on product scale up through the Centre for Advancement of Structured Liquid Engineering, plus additional expertise from the University of Cambridge.

The collaborative team have received £6m of joint funding as part of the EPSRC’s ‘Prosperity Partnerships’ scheme which aims to support existing, strategic, research-based collaborations between business and universities. The Prosperity Partnerships initiative has supported ten successful partnerships involving 17 universities and over 30 industrial partners.

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