Elastomers/rubbers are strategic and enabling materials and sit within all sectors of industry. The range of applications is truly diverse. Whilst the shock absorbing qualities of rubbers lend one to think of tyres and footwear applications, they are also used in teats for babies’ bottles and solid rocket fuel.
The strategic importance of elastomers and rubbers to nearly all industry sectors in the UK is not fully appreciated. In the UK, the scale of the elastomers and rubbers industry comprises around 500 companies employing 23,000 people with a turnover in excess of £4 billion (Office of National Statistics - UK Manufacturers Sales - Rubber Products). Natural rubber, which is predominantly polyisoprene, has had over a hundred years of development, predominantly incorporating carbon black for tyres. However, synthetic elastomeric materials (elastomers) are sometimes regarded as having a rather dirty image, which was once prevalent in the traditional rubber industry.
Today, both elastomers and rubbers are part of many varied developments - as seen by low profile, anti-skid tyres with low noise levels and improved fuel efficiency. They also feature in flexible medical devices and show future promise in products for harsh environments and in flexible electronics. It is estimated that over 50,000 products are based on elastomeric materials. In addition, the prospects for new products, many enabled by nanotechnology, highlight the need for the UK to establish itself as a leader in these new and exciting developments across so many sectors.
The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) has recently published a roadmap spanning 2015-2020 that looks at elastomers and rubber.
KTN developed the roadmap to enable academics and companies to work together to benefit from the future impact of elastomers and rubbers within areas that are of particular importance to the UK such as the oil & gas, medical, and defence sectors. It has been working for many years with the elastomer and rubber community to understand the drivers and opportunities for elastomer processing and innovation relevant to UK manufacturers.
To contribute to future strategy, make comment or find out how the activities are being pursued please contact Dr Sally Beken: firstname.lastname@example.org