A transformation is currently underway in a large range of computer and sensing technologies, displays and communication systems with the introduction of new low cost, flexible molecular and macromolecular materials. These materials, which encompass polymers, advanced liquid crystals, and nanostructures, including carbon and silicon nanowires, are set to have a disruptive impact on current technologies not only because of their cost/performance advantages, but also because they can be manufactured in more flexible ways, provide more functionality and be "engineered" for a wider range of applications.
The new materials have a strong research base in the UK, are suitable for a wide range of commercial concerns, both large and small, and hence provide an important opportunity for UK plc. At Cambridge there has been considerable research and development into these materials in recent years, with a range of world leading results having been achieved, which have in turn been exploited, in more than 15 spin-outs to date. The market penetration of soft materials into microelectronics and photonics however has only just begun, and with a market estimate measured in $10's of billion per annum, it is certain that the UK must capitalise on its strength in the basic science.
The IKC brings together the main research activities in the field at Cambridge, namely in the Electrical Engineering Division (in particular within the Centre for Advanced Electronics and Photonics, CAPE) and in the Cavendish. Together this research spans the MMM field and is recognised as having a world-leading position.
A key to this IKC is that it allows for the creation of tightly focussed commercialisation activities jointly with the Judge Business School, the Institute of Manufacturing (including the EPSRC Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre) and the Centre for Business Research. These will allow for the development of advanced manufacturing technologies using new macromolecular material systems and valid exploitation models. At the same time the IKC will create of a range of innovative knowledge transfer activities spanning business research, training and specific product exploitation.