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In recent years, the UK has woken up to the fact that formulation is a major driver of economic activity in the UK and a very successful export both visibly and invisibly through the formulation expertise which underpin much of global formualtion manufacturing.  Innovate UK has funded the National Formulation Centre (NFC) to address the higher technology readiness levels challenges and act as a nucleus for companies to address major challenges in a non-competitive environment.

While formulation had traditionally been seen as almost a craft skill based on the guru passing on expertise to an acolyte who given sufficient time and dedication would one day succeed the guru, thus keeping industry going.  Science has now caught up with the gurus and is due to overtake them soon.

In fact, the EPSRC realised that much science had been developed which had still to be applied to formulation, which if applied would make formulation a predictable manufacturing process.  So in early 2015 the EPSRC launched its "Future Formulation of Complex Products" (#epsrcff) call to address challenges in formulation, building on the skill bases within Centre for Doctorial Training and Centres for Innovative Manufacturing.  "The goal is to develop and improve manufacturing processes for the production of complex structured products,....."

The EPSRC has published on its "Grant on the Web" site ( the 7 projects that have currently been funded from the Future Formulation Call (#epsrcff) - £15 millon has been given for the 7 projects spread across 9 main institutions.

"I am excited to see the coherence of vision behind the funding of projects across a wide range technologies, all using state of the art science to bring predictability to formulation manufacturing, which have been funded by the EPSRC's Future Formulation call", Simon Gibbon, Chair RSC's Formulation Science and Technology Group, "The FSTG is looking forward to hearing about the outputs at our future meetings."

"In March during our Solid Form meeting in London, we celebrated one of the pioneers in the field of predictable formulation, Dr Elizabeth Colbourn, who developed software that addressed complex formulation issues from powder packing to mixture interactions, with the first Memorial Lecture, delivered by one of her long term collaborators Dr John Kendrik from the University of Bradford, on prediction of crystal structure, which a critical need for solid formulation, and one that will be addressed in a Future Formulation project."

"Future Formulation is riding the wave generated by the advances in both characterisation equipment capabilities and the scientific understanding of complex systems such as formulations.  This is already enabling improvements in formulation, which FSTG will be showcasing at our April meeting "Clever Characterisation for Smarter Formulation" (#cc4sf)

If you don't have time to read all the project abstracts, we have used the summaries to encapsulate the individual projects in word clouds.

Professor Colin Bain at the University of Durham is going to lead a team looking at paint drying or at least studying "Evaporative Drying of Droplets and the Formation of Micro-structured and Functional Particles and Films" with collaborators at the Universities of Leeds and Bristol and 14 industrial partners.  The project aims to understand the effect which drying has on controlling the final properties to dried materials from drops to films and hence allow control through formulation.


Professor Ricky Wildman at the University of Nottingham will be leading a team taming 3D printing or "Formulation for 3D printing: Creating a plug and play platform for a disruptive UK industry" with collaborators across Nottingham and at the Universities of Birmingham and Reading.  High throughput technologies will be used to identify formulations for 3D printing which can be used across a range of applications across multiple fields.


Dr Mark Haw at the University of Strathclyde, Dr Jin Sun of the School of Engineering and Prof Wilson Poon of the School of Physics & Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh will turn the art of high solid dispersions into a science or at least study "Predictive formulation of high-solid content complex dispersions" with 6 industrial partners.  Based on their previous work they will develop the science to allow dial-up design of high solids dispersions for a range of applications.160330EPSRCFF3predictive

Dr Csaba Sinka at the University of Leicester with colleagues from Greenwich, Leeds, Leicester and Imperial College London are going for virtual reality formulations or at least will develop "Virtual Formulation Laboratory for prediction and optimisation of manufacturability of advanced solids based formulations" with the help / guidance of 8 industrial partners.  Solid formulations are ubiquitous from pharmaceuticals to fine chemicals, but still the complexities of formulation lead unforeseen manufacturing problems at all stages of development.  The project will deliver "VFL" which by modeling powder flow, mixing, compaction and storage, will predict common manufacturing problems, allowing these to be overcome before manufacture.
160330EPSRCFF4virtualDr Robin Curtis at The University of Manchester and Professor Paul Dalby at University College London with their colleagues and 7 industrial partners will take the guesswork out of biopharmaceuticals or at least study "Enabling rapid liquid and freeze-dried formulation design for the manufacture and delivery of novel biopharmaceuticals".  The project will measure the key properties of proteins in complex formulations developing an understanding of the factors controlling formulation and hence leading to a more rapid reliable development of the right promising biopharmaceuticals from biological screening to usable formulations.


Dr Darragh Murnane at the University of Hertfordshire will enable more efficient delivery of drugs to the lungs or at at will lead the project "INFORM 2020 - Molecules to Manufacture: Processing and Formulation Engineering of Inhalable Nanoaggregates and Microparticles" with collaborators from the universities of Manchester, Bath, Leeds and Cambridge, plus 4 industrial partners. Once the manufacturing problems inherent in getting a drug into a powder, it still has to be delivered to where it is needs.  Getting drugs into the lungs presents unique challenges that this project will develop the understanding to allow the right form to be formulated into the products at the design stage.


Professor Panagiota Angeli at University College London with colleages will simiplify toothpaste manufacture or at least carry out the project "Complex ORAL health products (CORAL): Characterisation, modelling and manufacturing challenges" with 3 industrial partners.  Toothpaste are very complex formulations, particularly pharmaceutical toothpastes, so this project will develop understand the lifecycle from ingredient to tooth, discovering how the components interact, indentifying the challenges and developing approaches to overcome these challenges.


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