The UK Metamaterials Network brings together experts from academia, industry, and governmental agencies to resolve interdisciplinary challenges for this exciting field of emerging materials from theory, fabrication, experiment, to large-scale manufacturing and field testing.
It was founded by Prof Alastair Hibbins and Dr Anja Roeding from the University of Exeter in 2019/2020 and started as a jointly funded endeavour between the EPSRC UK Metamaterials Network grant (EP/V002198/1), the UK’s Defence and Security Laboratory (Dstl) and the KTN Commercialising Metamaterials Innovation Network in March 2021.
At present, the Network is being led by Prof Alastair Hibbins (University of Exeter) and Dr Claire Dancer (Warwick Manufacturing Group, University of Warwick) as academic investigators, together with Dr Anja Roeding as lead of the network operations and a multi-institutional leadership team.
The Network’s key aim is to build a vibrant and creative, multidisciplinary community to accelerate novel and innovative metamaterials research and exploitation pathways, while securing and building the UK’s sovereign capability and prosperity in this crucial scientific area.
Historically, the UK has been a global leader in the field, with its roots in the work of radar engineers in the 2nd World War, and being reinvigorated by the research of some of our most eminent academics, including Professor Sir John Pendry.
However, today, it risks falling behind the curve. As a specific example, the Chinese government has funded the development of the world’s first large-scale metamaterial fabrication facility, which has capacity to produce 100,000 m² of metamaterial plates annually, with projects relating to aerospace, communication, satellite and military applications.
We believe that the isolation of research groups and lack of platforms to exchange and develop ideas currently inhibits the UK’s access to the interdisciplinary potential existing within our universities, industries, and governmental agencies. It is of the utmost importance to develop interactions and mobility between these communities, to enable knowledge transfer, innovation, and a greater understanding of the barriers and opportunities.
The intervention that this Network will provide will ensure that the UK does not lag our international competitors.
The Network is funded by EPSRC, Dstl and KTN investments and runs conferences, workshops, discussion groups, and other collaboration building events through its Special Interest Groups and Forums. The enhanced collaboration will help resolve key interdisciplinary challenges and foster the required talent pipeline across academia and industry. As a result we will see an increase in research power for the metamaterials theme, and therefore reaping the impact opportunities of this area for UK economy and society.
The Network’s extensive promotion of the benefits of metamaterials technology (e.g., case studies, white papers etc), facilitation of access to metamaterial experts and facilities (through the online database) and closer interactions with end-users at appropriate events (e.g. industry-academia workshops) will help grow external investment in metamaterials research.
Ultimately the Network will provide the stimulation of a discovery-innovation-enterprise cycle to meet desired outcomes for prosperity and consequentially, society, defence, and security. As a result we will see an increase in research power for the metamaterials theme, and therefore reaping the impact opportunities of this area for UK economy and society.