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University’s high-tech NMR scanner used to help local firms 


Dr Richard Telford, Director of the Analytics Centre

From compostable plastic bags to ‘soluble’ medical implants – how the University of Bradford is helping local SMEs innovate 

Small and medium sized businesses across Yorkshire will benefit from access to advanced scientific equipment, housed at the University of Bradford, to create new, and improve existing products, thanks to a £550,000 grant extension from the EU. 

Current projects include analysis of compostable plastic bags, bio-resorbable medical implants, polymers used in secure bank notes and interrogation of drug delivery technologies for the treatment of Covid. 

SMEs across the Leeds City Region are already working with the University’s Centre for Chemical and Biological Analysis, part of the Faculty of Life Sciences, which uses nuclear magnetic resonance instruments to analyse the properties of materials at a molecular level.

NMR uses a high field superconducting magnet chilled to -269°C using liquid helium – this enables scientists to study the behaviour of different materials at the molecular level. 

New funding

The work is funded by Project CAYMAN (Chemistry Assets for Yorkshire MANufacturing), which began in 2019 with a £1.6m grant (jointly funded by European Regional Development Fund and the University). The original project was due to end in October 2022 but has now been extended until June 2023. 

Dr Richard Telford, Director of the University’s Centre for Chemical and Biological Analysis, said the money would enable them to buy three new pieces of equipment to expand their current offering. 

“We currently use our NMR instrument to carry out detailed analysis of materials used in manufacturing a variety of products. The NMR machines are specialised pieces of equipment which are regularly used by large companies such as those in ‘Big Pharma’, but because of their cost, they would not normally be accessible to SMEs. 

“Project CAYMAN has established itself very successfully, delivering assistance in analytical projects to Leeds City Region SMEs in the materials and polymer sectors. These successful interactions have revealed that a broader offer of assistance using instruments to interrogate surface properties of materials would be of great benefit in addition to the original scope. We applied to ERDF to extend and expand the project in September and our request has now been approved.” 

He added: “This new funding means we can invest in three new high value scientific instruments to study the surface properties of materials and work with a broader set of scientific companies, particularly in engineering-focused sectors.”