A State of the Art Review of Smart Materials
The quiet days of summer are a chance to catch up on the reading and thinking which is so difficult to do during busier times. It is finally a chance to read in detail the Knowledge Transfer Network's useful publication from December 2015 on the The State of the Art Review of Smart Materials - A Review of Metamaterials in the UK.
Whilst predating SYMETA this captures the backdrop against which SYMETA was conceived. It outlines the evolution of metamaterials by focusing on the work of four UK universities including SYMETA collaborators: the University of Exeter and Queen Mary University London.
Reading the report retrospectively has been interesting especially when mapping SYMETA against the summaries of the report's key findings. The report's summary findings are detailed below together with SYMETA's planned contribution.
Strengths lie in the UK's broad university base coupled with world-class industrial research in the aerospace sector and the development of particular applications by other industries.
SYMETA brings together five leading universities and consortium of industry partners from across a number of sectors to pool knowledge, generate new knowledge and to ensure that the research base in this area is strengthened and expanded.
Academic research could be better targeted and arguably better co-ordinated between universities.
SYMETA has a dedicated Project and Outreach Manager with a remit to support the co-ordination of information across the consortium and to extend the reach of SYMETA to new collaborators and beneficiaries. The Project and Outreach Manager is working closely with the Project Engineer whose specific role is to ensure that the technical aspects of the project co-ordinate to avoid duplication and to ensure that the research remains focused on the project's goals.
Work still needs to be done to increase the general understanding of the benefits of this technology.
SYMETA has a programme of activity around outreach and dissemination to improve understanding in this area.
The time it takes for disruptive applications to mature is also problematic.
By involving end-users from industry from the start SYMETA hopes to shorten the timelines leading to the adoption of the new technologies.
Opportunities include the breadth of applications, some early exploitation opportunities and synergistic process and fabrication development opportunities.
SYMETA hopes to make the most of these opportunities by developing a range of demonstrators. Close relationships with industrial partners mean that the SYMETA team can listen and respond to the needs of industry.
The UK lags behind other countries, which are ahead when it comes to developing and exploiting metamaterials.
SYMETA is undertaking international benchmarking and working with an International Steering Group to understand how its research fits into the global research landscape and how it can be built upon to establish the UK as an area of expertise in this area.
A lack of clarity, fed by media interest, about what precisely qualifies as a metamaterial can confuse matters.
SYMETA's outreach programme has a strand around improving the public understanding of difficult and complex science.
So if you want to read something more interesting than the latest blockbuster on the beach this summer reach for this report.