Glyndŵr scientists celebrate £600k technology grant success

World-leading scientists at a pioneering technology centre are celebrating a £600,000 grant win.

The team at Glyndŵr University’s OpTIC facility in St Asaph received the award from the Welsh Government’s A4B scheme.

A4B is a six year £70million programme of support funded by the Welsh Government and European Structural Funds which provides a portfolio of cash support for knowledge transfer from academia to business.

The money will allow the University’s National Facility for Ultra Precision Services to respond even quicker to the needs of the UK and international optics industry.

And it comes after the Glyndŵr University team polishing mirrors for the £900m European-Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) won the race to meet challenging ESO (European Southern Observatory) specifications, putting them in pole position to help produce all of the segments required for its primary mirror.

The first phase nine-month programme supported by A4B not only produces a series of technology demonstrators to showcase new metrology, machining and automation processes, but also establishes for the first time a structured programme of industrially relevant research and development and training in support of the optics industry.

Chief Scientific Advisor for Wales, Julie Williams, said: “I’m delighted this funding will enable Glyndŵr University to continue its research and development in this highly specialised field and open opportunities for international collaboration.

“Their work on the European-Extremely Large Telescope has already helped put Wales firmly on the map as an area of technical expertise in the optics industry and I wish them every success with this latest phase of work.”

Co-ordinated through a series of special interest groups bringing together leading industrial and academic players, the initiative draws upon the world class expertise already gained by Glyndŵr in fulfilling the demands of the E-ELT, the largest contract ever awarded by ESO to a UK contractor.

The project combines Glyndŵr’s technical expertise in developing processes capable of manufacturing the world’s most advanced and largest optical telescope, with the business facing expertise of the University’s award-winning technology transfer company Glyndŵr Innovations, named among the fastest-growing businesses in Wales for the last two years.

Glyndŵr University Vice Chancellor, Professor Michael Scott, said: “I would like to congratulate the team at St Asaph for their hard work in securing this grant from the A4B programme.

“The strides they’ve made in polishing mirrors for the European-Extremely Large Telescope and in producing world-class research and development (R&D) has placed them at the cutting edge of high technology, not just in the UK but internationally.

“Everyone at Glyndŵr University is very proud of their achievements and we look forward to seeing good progress with the programme.”

The project will focus on four key areas: partnership development, process optimisation, metrology and production engineering.

Glyndŵr Innovations’ commercial manager Mick Card, who secured the grant, is delighted with the award and looks forward to working with a wide range of industrial and academic partners to create national and international R&D collaborations and training programmes vital to the 21st century optics industry.

He said: “The process optimisation will extend capability for the use of robots in the optical polishing manufacturing chain as well as increasing and refining the capabilities of the existing polishing techniques on the CNC polishing machines. These processes will improve the speed of production whilst maintaining the capability to meet the most demanding specifications.

“The metrology work will develop techniques for the characterisation of ‘grey’ or unpolished surfaces, and the examination of surface structures alongside further improvements in the use of interferometry, while the production engineering side will develop machining support systems as well as defining the control and automation needs of a 21st century production environment.”

He added: “This is a big win for us after a lot of hard work by the team here in St Asaph – we’re thrilled and look forward to taking Glyndŵr to the next level in terms of R&D.”