The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) is leading a consortium to create a UK manufacturing supply chain that aims to enable the widespread adoption of packaging incorporating Near-field Communication (NFC) based technology.

The three year project, entitled ‘SCOPE’, is building the manufacturing capability, capacity and skills required to commercialise and position the UK as a world leader in the production of smart products with printed sensors – a fast growing billion dollar global market.

The aim of SCOPE is to develop processes, equipment and applications to enable the high-volume manufacturing of printed electronic components that incorporate NFC. The project is providing a technology platform to develop innovative and novel functionalities and applications, alongside the building of specialist skills and capabilities. A key emphasis is to apply highly automated and high speed integration techniques to meet target costs of <1cent per NFC tag.

The consortium is made up of 14 partners across the UK’s packaging supply chain including; Unilever, Hasbro, Crown Packaging alongside Tier-1 product supply-chain companies Andrews & Wykeham and Mercian Labels. Additionally it unites complementary technical expertise in the production of flexible integrated circuits (PragmatIC), the automation of processes (Optek), ferrite materials (University of Kent), electronics design (Silvaco), polymer substrates (Innovia), inks (Invotec and CPI), NFC know-how (NFS) and systems integration (CPI and PragmatIC). The British Print Industry Federation are supporting dissemination for the project, linking the supply chain together and providing end user feedback on the market readiness of the technology.

The project covers multiple application sectors such as fast-moving consumer goods, beverage, games and security and provides a platform to develop second-generation opportunities within other key UK sectors including healthcare, food, energy, built-environment, defence and transport.

Mike Clausen programme manager at CPI said: “Going forward the next steps are to upscale the manufacturing process to ensure that these novel NFC applications are produced at the cost and speeds that industry demands. To do this, we are currently developing the capability to scale up these production processes to produce market trial samples of 50,000 to 100,000 tags”.