The UK government is to encourage innovation in 'additive manufacturing' (also known as 3D printing) via a GBP7m investment in R&D.

Grants for collaborative R&D projects in 3D printing, will be awarded through an open competition to be managed by the Technology Strategy Board (www.innovateuk.org), the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC – www.epsrc.ac.uk), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC – www.ahrc.ac.uk) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC – www.esrc.ac.uk).

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts David Willetts said: "3D printing technologies offer huge potential for UK businesses to compete successfully by embracing radically different manufacturing techniques that could be applied across a wide variety of global market sectors, from aerospace to jewellery.

“We believe this new investment will help UK companies make the step change necessary to reach new markets and gain competitive advantage.  Building on GBP20m of previous Technology Strategy Board support for additive manufacturing innovation, it will help secure more of this game-changing high value activity for the UK, driving economic growth and enhancing quality of life.”

Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the Technology Strategy Board, added: We are delighted that this important initiative is supported by three research councils.  By working together to stimulate innovation in this exciting and challenging area, we aim to accelerate the transition from fundamental research to the creation of new design, production and supply chain competences, capitalising on work we have previously funded.  We want to make the UK a world leader in 3D printing.  We are setting our sights high.”

The ‘Inspiring New Design Freedoms in Additive Manufacturing’ competition is focused mainly on innovations to help businesses bring components and consumer items made by additive manufacturing more quickly to market.  It aims to help innovative UK companies take the next steps to accelerating the adoption of additive manufacturing technologies, overcome remaining technical barriers and explore new business models.

The competition will open on 3 December 2012 and further information will be available at the end of October.