The Engineering Department's Advance Nanotube Application and Manufacturing (ANAM) Initiative has worked with partners such as BAE and MarshallLouis Ashworth

A Cambridge Department of Engineering research group is currently working with arms companies BAE Systems and Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group.

Until yesterday, the website of the Advanced Nanotube Application and Manufacturing Initiative (ANAM) stated that these partners “play a vital and pro-active role in influencing the aims and directions of research” and also “obtain the benefits, including exploitation of intellectual property, for relatively low cost”.

Responding to this, a spokesperson for the University said, “Thank you for pointing out this error on the ANAM web page. It has been corrected. Academic freedom is a fundamental principle of the University, and no donor directs research that they fund - this is core to our mission, and our integrity. Any suggestion to the contrary is false.”

However, on the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) website, it states that research conducted by ANAM aims at enhancing “current product offerings through incorporation of functional CNT [Carbon Nanotube] materials”, and that research is customised “to industrial requirements”.

Details of one ongoing research project conducted by ANAM that began in 2016 states, “The Universities of Cambridge and Ulster have been working closely with BAE Systems to understand their specific application requirements and needs and to use these in setting research priorities.”

“[BAE] have been forthcoming in providing information on their industrial applications for which the CNT fibre would be best suited and for which the specific advantages of CNT materials would be most valuable. This has helped researchers set priorities and targets for their research.”

BAE systems is the largest defence contractor in Europe. Its clients include the Saudi Arabian government which stands accused of a civilian bombing campaign in Yemen – now the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN.

A similar project relying on a close relationship is also ongoing with Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group, which according to their website “is a service provider to a range of customers in military and commercial markets in the air, land and sea domains”.


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ANAM is also listed on Cambridge Zero’s website as one of the organisations with which they are partnering in their ‘Carbon drawdown and climate repair’ research.

Headed by Dr Emily Shuckburgh OBE, Cambridge Zero is Cambridge’s climate change initiative, using research from the University with the aim of developing solutions for “a zero-carbon future”.

The University did not directly respond to questioning surrounding whether BAE Systems and Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group would have access to the information obtained through Cambridge Zero’s research.

According to the UKRI website, ANAM has received close to £3 million from the government-funded Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). According to Dr Boies, reader in the Division of Energy in the University of Cambridge Department, another £500,000 was provided by “a core group of industrial partners” including BAE and Marshall.

Researchers have been exploring ways in which nanotubes can be used in weapons manufacturing for decades. When exposed to a photoflash, CNT materials catch fire and explode, emitting a great deal of heat which could be used to develop remote-control devices for small explosive charges. Nanotube research has also contributed to the development of “strong, lightweight anti-ballistic materials”.

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