Research and development
Renishaw is committed to research and innovation.
A commitment to the long term: research and development has always been at the heart of our business. We typically invest around 14% to 18% of sales turnover on research and development to maintain leadership in our various technologies.
Applying core strengths to new sectors
The Raman Spectroscopy technology, which is widely applied to fields as diverse as the pharmaceutical, forensic, semiconductor and chemical industries, is also now helping to underpin Renishaw's diversification into the healthcare sector, where we are developing trace level detection technologies, based on the exploitation of Surface-Enhanced Resonance Raman Scattering (SERRS), for molecular diagnostics and research applications. However, this has only been possible by successfully combining two different technologies that arose from research projects at Strathclyde University (SERRS) and at Southampton University (Klarite substrate).
As a business with a significant breadth of disciplines, Renishaw has been able to take these individual components, which are not significant in their own right, and then by combining them with our Raman instrumentation and commercial awareness, functionalise an exciting new method of human disease detection. As Geoff McFarland says, “Renishaw Diagnostics Ltd aims to become the premier provider of automated multiplex diagnostic and clinical research systems, enabling its customers to carry out fast, reliable and simplified disease detection leading to improved patient care.”
Advancing co-ordinate measurement
Another current commercial success is our REVO five-axis measuring head for co-ordinate measuring machines (CMMs), which has been awarded with four international awards for innovation.
Over ten years in development, a significant component are the optical encoders, where Renishaw benefitted enormously from the ability of Heriot-Watt University to micro-fabricate the optics.
However, as McFarland explains, “Like Raman Spectroscopy, the REVO product is another example of how it is often wrong to think about research project timescales in terms of initial concept to commercialisation – for a business it is all about successful commercialisation, which can take another five years after market launch, especially where it is a truly breakthrough product.
Taking a long-term view
Renishaw is used to taking a long-term view of engineering and science-based projects, but as our Group Engineering Director, Geoff McFarland says, “It requires a passionate belief in the ultimate commercial viability of the technology, and the ability to hold your nerve, because the length of time from fledgling technology to commercial launch is regularly underestimated.”
A good example of this is our Raman Spectroscopy technology, used to identify the composition and structure of materials, which was originally developed together with Leeds University in the 1980s.
We struggled for a long time to take it from a laboratory setting to a product that could be successfully manufactured in volume, and then onto real commercial success.
However, that faith has now been repaid and when the downturn hit global manufacturing in 2009, it was our only product line that continued to grow.
The role of universities
Renishaw has a strong relationship with universities, as part of our research and development programmes. In our main metrology product lines, we have significant expertise in mechatronics, in which we like to do our own research, and then approach other organisations for support outside this specialism.
Therefore, as an example, in recent years we've worked with Bath University on materials research and Brunel University on coatings.
Geoff McFarland adds, “We currently work with multiple UK universities, with whom we have built up relationships over many years. We focus on the UK because face-to-face contact is we believe key to maintaining focus and driving forward the research to ultimate commercial gain.”