Decisive Moment for Materials

Fighting back after an extraordinarily disruptive year, we will take the next important step forward in the wake of a tremendous amount of unseen activity that has been taking place, driving industry, innovation, research and academia. The Advanced Materials Show and Ceramics UK will champion all these superb efforts, and act as the most significant springboard of 2021 for the industry.

It’s clearly a highly anticipated moment for many.

“Ceramics UK is a very important show for us this year. After more than a year without any physical event, we are very keen on meeting customers again in person,” says Johannes Homa, CEO, Lithoz. “This is the key trade fair for us in the UK. It brings together not only the relevant people from the UK, but also from Europe and hopefully also from other parts of the world.”

As it transpires, it’s probably never been more crucial for our essential industries – medical, automotive, aerospace, chemicals, electronics, communications, construction, renewables, and energy storage – to make quantum leaps in terms of quality, productivity, sustainability, and environmental management. The advanced materials community is poised to play its part in assisting manufacturers to make their products, structures and systems lighter, faster, cleaner and increasingly efficient.

“Progress in a wide range of advanced technologies from healthcare to aerospace depends…on the availability of new materials with the properties required to trigger step changes in performance,” observes Prof Eduardo Saiz Gutierrez, Director, Centre for Advanced Structural Ceramics (Imperial College London). “The problems are complex and will often require imaginative solutions. Users also need to know what is available and how to design and build parts with the advanced materials at hand. We need forums like The Advanced Materials Show in order to open communications channels between all parties involved. Bringing people together in order to formulate the needs and discuss the solutions is essential.”

The constrained environment of the past year, while presenting industry with its fiercest challenges in decades, has nevertheless seen a groundswell of exciting technological developments, as well as the imaginative development of many improved Tier 1/Tier 2 supply chains.

This is echoed by James Baker, CEO, Graphene@Manchester: “When the full impact of Covid became clear, fears were expressed that a slowdown in innovation would result. In fact, that couldn’t be further from the case, as evidenced by my own team’s response,” he reports. “As we go forward, we will be dealing with a ‘not-normal normal’, a hybrid approach that will reflect how we have adapted to alternative communication strategies and have successfully grasped other such opportunities. It’s clear to me that in all this, there will be a vital role for advanced materials in improving outcomes.”

All this behind-the-scenes work has meant that the future for manufacturing industry should be ever more flexible, agile, and responsive. This consideration is likely to feature prominently at the unveiling of many initiatives at the NEC in July. We will see through a mass attendance experience how together we can pull all the strands of new thinking together in order to be able to leverage high level research, innovation, manufacturing, and Industry 4.0 competencies. “We really need this event…it will accelerate positive development in this sector,” adds Johannes Homa.

The Advanced Materials Show and Ceramics UK will be instrumental in examining the role of battery and fuel cell technologies, particularly in light of the UK’s ambition to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“There will rightly be increased emphasis around the sustainability and net-zero agenda across a number of sectors that are central to these events, such as aerospace, automotive, construction and energy,” says James Baker. “The discussions we will initiate will positively influence important manufacturing partnerships and collaborations, including those involving SMEs, start-ups and scale-ups.”

The platform is set for a perfect synergy on this front, with important developers and suppliers of technical materials and ceramics exhibiting the very latest products, alongside international leaders in battery cells/systems and vehicle electrification participating in two other co-located shows. Both raw and processed materials will unquestionably have a great bearing on how energy storage technology can meet the challenges in front of it – in terms, for instance, of capacity, energy density, charging times, recycling, cost optimisation and its role in the circular economy.

“There is an opportunity for technical material manufacturing to embrace the ongoing revolution in green technologies, and by doing so dramatically reduce the environmental costs associated with continuous material production,” notes Ben Melrose, Technical Director at International Syalons, and for all those participating at the NEC, there is no doubt about the upsurge of interest. “The long-term performance of specialist technical material solutions has encouraged similar attraction from a wide cross-section of industrial areas,” adds Ben.

As accelerated preparations for the shows got underway in February, a major fillip was the UK Government’s announcement that the next generation of pioneering inventors will be backed by a new £800 million independent scientific research funding body, the Advanced Research & Invention Agency (ARIA). The ARIA team of prominent, world-leading scientists will be tasked with funding high-risk research that offers the chance of rich rewards, supporting ground-breaking discoveries that could be transformational.

Alongside other previously announced initiatives, this means the UK is on track to reach 2.4% of GDP being spent on R&D across its economy by 2027. ARIA will experiment with funding models including programme grants, seed grants, and prize incentives, and will be able to start and stop projects according to their success, redirecting funding where necessary. It will have a much higher tolerance for failure than is normal, recognising that in research the freedom to fail is often also the freedom to succeed.

As we plan, experiment, reshape and respond to changing imperatives, that type of freedom is not a bad motto for The Advanced Materials Show and Ceramics UK either. We look forward to exercising it. As Prof Saiz Gutierrez says, “It is important to have a place where all professionals working in the field can meet regularly…the place where you go because you know that ‘everybody will be there’ – from the researchers to the end users.”

The Advanced Materials Show, Ceramics UK, Battery Cells & Systems Expo and Vehicle Electrification Expo is taking place on 7th & 8th July 2021, NEC UK. For more information and to register for free visit:

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