New research projects that aim to improve the complex formulation processes used to manufacture products such as toothpastes, inhalers, films that coat solar cells and pharmaceuticals are to receive significant funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
Seven projects, involving researchers at 16 universities across the UK and over 40 industrial and academic partners, will share £15 million in grants that cover a wide range of research.
One team of researchers based at the University of Nottingham will also explore how new formulations of materials can be used in 3D printing and will establish a series of libraries that list material combinations that industry can use in different types of printing.
Another group, at the University of Leicester, will work to develop a Virtual Formulation Laboratory that will predict how different formulations and changes in their composition will affect how they perform in the real world. It is hoped that the lab will be used widely in the development process of every new formulated powder product in food, pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals.
Commenting on the grants, Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC's Chief Executive, said: "Formulation science is a highly complex area that combines expertise from different disciplines from maths to chemistry. For many people these processes are invisible and possibly of little interest to them, but they impact on their lives every day. These grants are going to help a wide range of industries that use formulation processes and continue to make the UK a productive nation."
Summaries of the projects are below:
EP/N024818/1: Formulation for 3D printing: Creating a plug and play platform for a disruptive UK industry
£3.5 million - Professor Wildman, University of Nottingham
3D printing lacks the materials to be a fully mass manufacturing process. Using a high throughput methodology, the programme aims to deliver sector specific libraries of 3D printable materials, develop formulation platforms for multi active delivery, develop formulations that enable control of microstructure and advanced materials for future formulation for 3D printing. Manufacturers and users of 3D printed products will be able to use the outcomes to produce 3D printing formulations without significant resource.
Links to Universities and Project Partners: University of Birmingham; University of Reading; EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Food; EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Additive Manufacturing
EP/N024915/1: Complex ORAL health products (CORAL): Characterisation, modelling and manufacturing challenges
£1.9 million - Professor Angeli, UCL
Toothpastes have a complex and ill-understood manufacturing process. The proposed research aims to provide new fundamental insights into complex oral health formulations and to overcome the related high impact manufacturing challenges through a multidisciplinary approach encompassing cutting-edge experimental techniques, mathematical modelling and simulations, spanning from the micro to the macro scale domain. This will aid researchers of toothpaste formulation and food science, biomedical engineering, additive manufacturing and earth sciences.
Links to Universities and Project Partners: GSK; Xaar plc; EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Formulation Engineering; Institute of Manufacturing; Centre for Process Innovation
EP/N025075/1: INFORM 2020 - Molecules to Manufacture: Processing and Formulation Engineering of Inhalable Nanoaggregates and Microparticles
£1.9 million - Dr Murnane, University of Hertfordshire
Aerosol therapy (through inhalers) is used to treat infections in the lungs and can be used as an alternative to injections. Many patients fail to gain full benefits through inability to use inhalers correctly. This project will aim to better understand and characterise the formulations with the ultimate goal to use the developed techniques to translate therapeutic benefits from molecules to manufactured products.
Links to Universities and Project Partners: University of Cambridge; University of Bath; University of Leeds; University of Manchester; Intertek plc; NanoPharm Ltd; AstraZeneca; Team Consulting Ltd
EP/N025318/1 (£989,000) and EP/N024982/1 (£282,000): Predictive formulation of high-solid-content complex dispersions
Dr Sun, University of Edinburgh and Dr Haw, University of Strathclyde
High-solid-content dispersions in a liquid phase are ubiquitous in industrial applications but reliable and efficient processing and manufacturing presents challenges for formulation technology as flow and behaviour becomes unstable and unpredictable. The project's vision is to transform practice in the formulation of HSCDs through a tight collaboration of researchers and major multi-sector industry partners and provide a new methodology of characterization, measurement, prediction and control, leading to reliable process and manufacture of HSCD-based products.
Links to Universities and Project Partners: University of Strathclyde; Akzo Nobel; DuPont (Global); Johnson Matthey; Schlumberger Gould Research; The Chemours Company; Centre for Process Innovation; National Formulation Centre; Centre for Doctorate Training in Soft Mater and Function Interfaces; Centre for Doctoral Training in Complex Particulate Products and Processes
EP/N025245/1: Evaporative Drying of Droplets and the Formation of Micro-structured and Functional Particles and Films
£2.3 million - Professor Bain, Durham University
The coffee-ring effect shows that when split coffee dries, it forms a ring at the edge of a spill, which is not useful when trying to coat a surface uniformly. The overall aim of the project is to develop a predictive understanding of droplet drying and how it can be used to produce micro-structured particles and thin films, both in manufacturing processes and in end-use applications. Droplet drying is an important process across a wide range of academic and industrial fields including solar cells, pharmaceuticals, coatings, food, printing and additive manufacturing.
Links to Universities and Project Partners: University of Bristol; University of Leeds; Akzo Nobel; Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharm Research UK; Centre for Process Innovation; Chiesi Ltd; Croda (Group); Danone Nutricia; Hovione (International); Inca Digital Printers Ltd;Kuecept Ltd; Merck and Co Inc; Nestle SA; Procter and Gamble; Sun Chemical; Syngenta
EP/N025105/1 (£1.5 million) and EP/N024796/1 (£860,000): Enabling rapid liquid and freeze-dried formulation design for the manufacture and delivery of novel biopharmaceuticals
Paul Dalby, UCL and Dr Curtis, University of Manchester
The next-generation of protein-based therapies, or biopharmaceuticals, used to treat diseases including cancers, rheumatoid arthritis and others, are of increasingly complex engineered forms with unpredictable solution properties. One of the most challenging aspects is that determining the shelf life stability over two years. The project aims to provide rapid analyses and process models for the biopharmaceutical formulation community to better analyse and develop their formulations.
Links to Universities and Project Partners: University of Manchester; EPSRC Centre of Innovative Manufacturing in Emergent Macromolecular Technologies; BBSRC; Arecor; Ipsen Biopharm Ltd; Wyatt Technology; FujiFilm Diosynth Biotechnologies; National Institute for Bio Standards and Control; UCB