Biomaterials and tissue engineering

The application of engineering methods to create environments and/or materials that promote cell or tissue growth and function, in vitro and in vivo. A significant body of research focuses on biomedical materials with novel chemical, physical or mechanical properties, as well as the use of materials in a wide range of medical applications and interventions.

This area has a key role in underpinning the regenerative medicine agenda; the Advanced Materials Leadership Council (AMLC) recognises the need to develop novel materials for healthcare. (Evidence source 1) We therefore aim to maintain funding as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio. By the end of the Delivery Plan, the area will be characterised by diverse investments addressing long-term research challenges for fundamental biomaterials and regenerative medicine.

Researchers should focus on emerging challenges associated with Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering, such as: generation of curative and customised biomaterials, personalised therapy and stratified medicine; biocompatibility in medical devices and bioelectronics; antimicrobial resistance; and manufacturing/scale-up of cell therapies.

This research area is highly multidisciplinary, requiring specialised training and leadership development to create and sustain capability. Over the Delivery Plan period, we will work with the community to develop a research culture where:

  • Investigators work with relevant industrial stakeholders to accelerate industrial uptake and maximise commercialisation of their research
  • Closer links with the manufacturing sector help tackle research challenges in scale-up and reproducibility
  • A clear collaborative approach with other funders ensures that training and leadership are preserved for academic, clinical and industrial needs.

There will also be a focus on co-creation of research projects between researchers, clinicians and other users. By ensuring this relationship, EPSRC investment will enable novel research that addresses clinical need as well as adding to the engineering and physical sciences knowledge base. We will encourage researchers to develop strategic relationships with stakeholders who have the clinical/regulatory expertise necessary for translation of innovative research. To assist this, we will encourage use of the Healthcare Technologies Impact and Translation Toolkit. (Evidence source 2)

The formation of the Sir Henry Royce Institute will have a potential impact on facilities needs. Alignment and integration across the landscape will therefore be important - particularly with regard to other advanced materials portfolios.

It is also recognised that this research area is potentially relevant to Official Development Assistance funding streams.

Highlights:

The Maxwell review noted the importance of fundamental engineering and physical sciences research in underpinning research in healthcare technologies, (Evidence source 3) and the UK retains an international strength in biomaterials, regenerative medicine and tissue engineering research outputs. (Evidence source 4,5) Capacity has grown to accommodate government drivers for regenerative medicine and advanced materials through the Eight Great Technologies. (Evidence source 6,7)It is also necessary to align with the AMLC's future strategy (which includes the theme of Materials for Healing) (Evidence source 1) and the strategy of the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3R). (Evidence source 8)

The UK is one of the strongest countries in terms of research outputs in the field of regenerative medicine. (Evidence source 9,10,11) Indeed, regenerative medicine and advanced materials are two areas where the UK has been acknowledged as performing world-leading research with a range of applications across a spectrum of industries. (Evidence source 6,7) The regenerative medicine market is expected to create 15,000 jobs by 2020. (Evidence source 12 )Highlighting regenerative medicine as a UK strength, the AMLC recognises the need for close collaboration between industry, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and academia to support the translational pipeline. (Evidence source 1)

EPSRC has invested significantly in regenerative medicine in partnership with the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC), generating critical mass and reflecting the multidisciplinary nature of associated research. In 2013, UK Regenerative Medicine Platform (UKRMP) funding established five interdisciplinary hubs, bridging the gaps between engineering, medicine and biology.

Biomaterials technologies support the growth of medical device innovation and commercialisation. This research area provides a high-value science and engineering base for the manufacturing industry, whose products will deliver socio-economic impact by treating the UK's ageing population. (Evidence source 13,14) The Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult provides a vehicle for translating emerging technologies. (Evidence source 15)

Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering links with a number of other research areas. The strongest connections are with Clinical Technologies, Assistive Technology, Rehabilitation and Musculoskeletal Biomechanics, Polymer Materials, Biophysics and Soft Matter Physics, and Manufacturing Technologies.

This research area will be instrumental to the delivery of a range of Ambitions, including the following under the Healthy Nation and Productive Nation Outcomes:

H4: Develop future therapeutic technologies

This research area will contribute through development of novel cell therapies and regenerative medicine, and research into the generation of curative and customised biomaterials for personalised therapy and stratified medicine.

H5: Advance non-medical interventions

This area will contribute through research into novel materials for use in medical devices and that have the potential to combat biocompatibility issues.

P1: Introduce the next generation of innovative and disruptive technologies

This research area will contribute through novel research in regenerative medicine and the manufacturing/scale-up of cell therapies.

P3: Establish a new place for industry that is built upon a 'make it local, make it bespoke' approach

This area will contribute through the development of personalised medicine.

  1. AMLC, Materials for Healing, (2016).
  2. EPSRC, Healthcare Technologies Impact and Translation Toolkit (PDF).
  3. EPSRC, The Importance of Engineering and Physical Sciences Research to Health and Life Sciences ('the Maxwell review'), (2014).
  4. Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering in the UK, (2013).
  5. Horizon 2020, Biomaterials for Health - A Strategic Roadmap for Research and Innovation (PDF).
  6. Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), Eight Great Technologies - Regenerative Medicine and Advanced Materials, (2013).
  7. BIS and Department of Health, Taking Stock of Regenerative Medicine in the United Kingdom (PDF), (2011).
  8. NC3R, A Non-Animal Technologies Roadmap for the UK: Advancing Predictive Biology (PDF), (2015).
  9. Life Science Exchange - Regenerative Medicine Focus Group.
  10. Regenerative Medicine Expert Group, Building on Our Own Potential: A UK Pathway for Regenerative Medicine (PDF), (2015).
  11. UKRMP, A Strategy for UK Regenerative Medicine (PDF), (2012).
  12. House of Lords, Regenerative Medicine Report (PDF), (2013).
  13. UKRMP, Regenerative Medicine Forward Look (PDF), (2011).
  14. World Technology Evaluation Center (WTEC), Global Assessment of Biological Engineering & Manufacturing (PDF), (2014).
  15. Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, Cell Therapy GMP Manufacturing in the UK (PDF), (2014).

Other Sources:

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.

Maintain

We aim to maintain this area as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
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Biomaterials and tissue engineering EPSRC support by research area in (GoW)
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Contact Details

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Name: Sarah Ashwood
Job title: Portfolio Manager
Department: Engineering and Healthcare Technologies
Organisation: EPSRC
Telephone: 01793 444301