Celebrating the success of MRE 2020 - a brief round-up

Posted on: 12/03/2020

Read our round-up of Materials Research Exchange 2020, which took place 18th-20th February in London.

Photo galleries are not available for content from the previous KTN website: we apologise for this.

Materials Research Exchange 2020, Innovate UK & KTN’s flagship materials event of the year, was held on 18th – 20th February at the Business Design Centre in London. The event played host to over 90 speakers, more than 80 exhibitors and welcomed over 800 delegates through its doors over the two main days of the conference. the event was headline sponsored by The Henry Royce Institute with further sponsorship from Dstl and EPSRC.


Seminar sessions covered the full spectrum of the materials world, focusing on everything from materials in health to aerospace, 2D materials, the electrification of transport batteries, metamaterials and beyond, while sustainability remained a key theme throughout. The diversity of exhibitors was also evident, with a well-represented mix of academia and industry showcasing their position in the materials landscape. You can still view the full list of exhibitors on the MRE website here, while speakers can be viewed here. Exhibitors included The Henry Royce Institute, Advanced Coating Solutions, Blue Castle, BSI, the University of Exeter Centre for Metamaterial Research and Innovation, Dstl, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, Indestructible Paints Ltd., IOM3, The University of Manchester, National Physical Laboratory, Potter Clarkson LLP, Drochaid, Strem Chemicals UK Ltd., Tecman UK and the University of Leeds, amongst several others.


If you wish to refresh your memory on the whole programme you can do so here and the full electronic version of the programme we distributed at the event is available to peruse here.


Things kicked off on Tuesday 18th February, a day before the conference and exhibition officially opened, with the International Collaboration Seminar in the evening. This began with a welcome address from KTN’s Head of Materials, Robert Quarshie who then introduced the audience to our International Team members, Sandeep Sandhu¬†and Dr. Sean Holmes who outlined our Global Expert Mission Programme. Louise Hooker, GBIP Project Manager at Enterprise Europe Network took delegates through the Global Business Innovation Programme which “opens doors that on your own you wouldn’t be able to open”, including the upcoming Materials & Manufacturing GBIP to South Korea – more details can be found here. The International Seminar concluded with a presentation from Professor David Knowles, CEO of The Henry Royce Institute (headline sponsor of MRE) running through the structure, roles and facilities of the Royce, who aim to support and grow excellence in UK materials research and deliver positive economic and social impact for the UK.


The Plenary Session in the Auditorium was the setting for the opening Keynote Addresses of MRE, chaired by KTN’s CEO, Dr. Alicia Greated. Professor Sir Mark Walport, Chief Executive of UKRI, provided the Welcome Address which outlined the ubiquity of materials and emphasising the importance of MRE in bringing together the full materials landscape and inspiring connections and collaborations. Following on from Sir Mark was the Interim Chair of Innovate UK, Dr. Ian Campbell, who presented to a packed and enthusiastic audience on how UKRI provides the right environment to grow business, innovation and economic growth, while also underlining the strides taken in promoting equality, diversity and inclusion throughout UKRI, Innovate UK and KTN. Regius Professor of Materials & Chief Scientist at the Henry Royce Institute, Phil Withers, discussed the UK’s “world class” knowledge base and how we must turn great scientific research into great products – he emphasised how the UK needs to create a well-oiled materials research ecosystem to build on our strength in materials. We were also incredibly fortunate to have Lord Whitby, President of the Surface Engineering Association, take to the stage to discuss Industrial Leadership in Materials.¬†Dr. Amanda Quadling, Technical Director of M&I Materials provided a case study on how M&I commercialised breakthrough materials in the electricity industry and Richard Banks (Laboratory & Technical Manager at Indestructible Paint Ltd.) discussed the Innovate UK funding which helped Indestructible to develop chrome-free IPCOTE.


You can view our interview with Professor Sir Mark Walport following his speech in the plenary session below:


The afternoon on Day 1 of MRE hosted a series of seminars spread over four different venues within the Business Design Centre. in the Auditorium, the Henry Royce Institute hosted the Academic Conference on Advanced Materials Materials for a Sustainable Society, with talks on formulation and robotics, drug discovery, advanced metals processing and materials for energy efficient electronics. Over in the Village Green Left sustainability remained a key theme with topics including carbon emissions in material supply chains, biomimetric textiles and advanced material design using deep learning being discussed. The Village Green Right session was led by Dstl and focused on Materials for Defence and Security Challenges, with Science Advisor Dave West examining outlining additive manufacturing as one such challenge (especially when used on ships); this session was followed by one on Advances in Surface Engineering, led by SELF, which provided an insight into advances in surface engineering in next generation vehicles, AI and Data and Clean Growth. The Exec Centre played host to a masterclass on IP and R&D Tax Credit from Potter Clarkson LLP and Leyton, as well as a quick fire session of ‘show and tell’ presentations showcasing the value of design and material exchange, led by MaDE. While all of this was going on, KTN’s Knowledge Transfer Manager for Access to Funding and Finance, Charlotte Thompson, offered advice on how to pitch for investment, with mock pitch templates and tips for budding investors.


The first full day of MRE 2020 concluded with a networking and evening reception, which allowed delegates, exhibitors, speakers and organisers to interact and discuss the future of materials in the UK. View the video walkthrough from Day 1 of MRE 2020 below:



Day 2 opened with the awarding of poster prizes with Sue Dunkerton OBE (Director at KTN) and Simon Edmonds (Deputy Executive Chair/Chief Business Officer at Innovate UK). Simon stressed the importance of MRE 2020 as an “exchange” – a place to share ideas which is so important against the backdrop of global pressures such as plastic circularity, explaining that materials underpin every sector and contribute to every area of the UK economy. The poster prizes were sponsored by IOM3 and the Institute of Materials Finishing – you can view the abstracts of the posters which were submitted by PhD students here.


The Village Green Left on Day 2 played host to the UK Circular Plastic Network’s full day of talks, covering the ¬£140m¬†Smart Sustainable Plastics Packaging (SSPP) ISCF challenge with speakers including KTN’s Dr. Sally Beken and Veronica Sanchez-Romaguera plus the SSPP Challenge Director, Paul Davidson and the Deputy Challenge Director, Nick Cliffe. The afternoon session covered the implications of recycled/novel materials and food contact with speakers from the Food Standards Agency, BSI and Fera Science Ltd. with Dr. Emma Bradely, who discussed food contact safety and the need to consider the chemicals that remain after packaging products biodegrade which can lead to chemicals leaking into the environment.


The Auditorium held sessions on Game Changing Aerospace Materials and Processes, Materials Contributions to Driving the Electric Revolution, National Facilities for the Development of High Value Materials and the Electrification of Transport Batteries. The Exec Centre housed sessions on metamaterials and 2D materials, while the Village Green Right covered Transforming Foundation Industries, materials in construction and the challenges to the use of new materials in clinical applications. The latter was a fascinating discovery for attendees which involved Professor Keyoumars Ashkan, lead for Functional & Oncological Neurosurgery at King’s College Hospital examining the challenges of electrodes and battery size in neurosurgery as well as the potential of antimicrobial coatings in preventing infection. Additionally, Dr. Tom Clutton-Brock (Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Clinical Sciences at the University of Birmingham) outlined the diversity of medical devices used in the UK (500,000+ types of medical device in use, of which 80% are imported) and called for greater regulation in the UK. Over the course of MRE, Impact Factory additionally ran surgeries on ‘Boosting your Presentation and Networking Skills’, allowing attendees to enhance public speaking capabilities and build lasting business relationships when networking.


Overall, the event proved the power of networking with individual delegates and exhibitors making worthwhile connections. We were delighted to host such a well-received and well-attended event which gave attendees fascinating insights into current material developments in the UK. You can view a selection of testimonials which came through on social media below:


We’re delighted to announce that MRE 2022 will be taking place – looking forward to seeing you all in two years’ time.

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