Issue date: 17 December 2003

ISSUE DATE: 17/12/03

The art world is now an even more colourful place thanks to a prize-winning project linking the University of the West of England and artists’ suppliers Cranfield Colours Printing Inks.

UWE’s Faculty of Art, Media and Design and the South Wales based company have just received a top prize from the Department of Trade and Industry for ‘Best Application of Knowledge’ in this year’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership Awards. In doing so, the team beat off competition from 159 other entries from universities across the UK.

Jacqui Smith, Minister of State for Industry and the Regions, presented the awards at a ceremony in London. Michael Craine, Managing Director of Cranfield Colours said the programme has been excellent for them: “Profits are up, we have new export markets in the US, Holland, Australia and France, and a new range of products including the non-toxic Safewash ink. As a third generation small business, we needed to innovate and this programme has given us a business strategy that exceeded all expectations.”

Angela Brown, the Associate who spent two years on the programme and is now employed by Cranfield as Product Manager, developed new testing methods to ensure consistent quality is maintained in the brightly coloured batches of inks. She also devised ways to measure how ‘tacky’ or viscous the inks are, and how they sit on or are absorbed by various types of paper.

According to Steve Hoskins, the lead academic on the programme, UWE is in a unique position to understand fine artists’ requirements and to tailor products to meet them. This is due to its network of contacts in the art world through the international print conference, IMPACT, that it organises, together with its print studios which are among the best equipped in the country for trialling products.

In the course of the partnership, UWE has benefited from using the findings as an integral part of its courses in fine art printing. Steve Hoskins, who has been commissioned to write a book on the findings, described the challenges for fine artists and chemists working together.

“We discovered that there was a lack of a common language between artists and ink manufacturers when it came to describing what they wanted from an ink. Michael would describe a product in this way: ‘The metamerism of the product is low, the grind less than 5 microns and flocculation minimal. The catalytic driers are metallic salts of cobalt and manganese.’ I would say, yes but how cleanly does it wipe off the plate? Is it smooth or buttery? How short was it? We were talking different languages to each other – thanks to the programme, we have bridged that gap.”

Dean of the Faculty Paul Gough said he was delighted that the success of the programme had been recognised with a national award.

“UWE has gained considerably, through new education programmes and new avenues for research. In the course of the collaboration an all-but forgotten printing process called collotype has been revived which may enable digital printers to create reproductions of unrivalled accuracy and colour fidelity.”


Editor’s notes

1. UWE was one of four prizewinners, out of seven finalists, from an original 159 programmes that were eligible, including the Universities of Manchester, Ulster, Napier, Reading, London and Queen’s University Belfast.
2. Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) are government-supported three-way links between a university, a recent graduate and a small or medium company. They were formerly known as TCS (Teaching Company Schemes).
3. For more information on KTP programmes, contact Clare Rowson, KTP Office Manager, University of the West of England tel: 0117 32 83676 email:

Jpeg visual available from the Press Office.

From left to right, Michael Craine, Managing Director of Cranfield Colours; Jacqui Smith MP, Minister of State for Industry and the Regions; Angela Brown, Artists' Products Manager, Cranfield Colours (TCS Associate - employed by UWE during the TCS programme) and Professor Stephen Hoskins, Director, Centre for Fine Print Research, AMD, UWE.

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