21 July 2004
21 July 2004
The UK Department of Trade and Industry Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt has announced a new £30 million network to disseminate lighter, stronger composites technologies for aerospace, automotive and other industries.
The National Composites Network is the first recipient of the DTI's new Knowledge Transfer Network grants from the Technology Programme announced in April.
The National Composites Network will have various regional centres, each of which will specialise in particular technologies. The first part of the network will be at the GKN Centre on the Isle of Wight, and will focus on automated manufacture. It will also help secure 700 high quality manufacturing jobs.
"Composite" technologies are vital to aerospace and other transport industries because they can lead to lighter structures, allowing planes to use less fuel and carry heavier loads. Composite technology will also benefit other sectors including the UK's automotive, marine and construction industries.
Speaking at the Farnborough Airshow, Patricia Hewitt said that "the UK is a world leader in research into composite materials, but we haven't exploited the technology as widely as we could - it's vital for manufacturers, who are responsible for 75% of all R&D in the UK, to have the best possible access to information”.
Hewitt added that "the Composites Network will be an invaluable tool for companies working across sectors, from aerospace to construction. We have some of the best manufacturers in the world here, and the Government is committed to supporting innovative technologies in the UK, to maintain their success."
The National Composites Network aims to bring together industry experts in composites, share knowledge in composites across different industries and between companies and help smaller companies source their research and development and access state of the art technology.
Other centres are planned in the South West, Wales and Yorkshire, each with a focus on specific technologies. The South West centre at Airbus will focus on technologies for large and technically advanced structures, the centre in South Wales at TWI will specialise in non-destructive testing technology, and the Yorkshire centre (run jointly by Sheffield University and Boeing) will focus on machining and joining. The Network will have a steering group of major composite users and contributors including Bombardier Aerospace in Northern Ireland, NPL and Qinetiq.
The Department of Trade and Industry is putting £4.75 million into the network from its Technology Programme, announced in April. The UK's various Regional Development Agencies are putting in a further 14 million, with industry contributions bringing the total funding up to £30 million.
Ms. Hewitt used her speech at the Farnborough Airshow to highlight other joint work being carried out by the Government and the aerospace sector and progress on last year's Aerospace Innovation and Growth Team (AeIGT) report:
The Chancellor's Comprehensive Spending Review announced last week provides additional funding for the DTI's Technology Strategy. Funding will increase by 140m per annum by 2007/8, which taken with the re-direction of existing spend on innovation will increase spending on the Technology Strategy to more than 250m per annum by 2007/8. Aerospace and other research-intensive sectors are all set to benefit from this investment.
Science Minister Lord Sainsbury is leading a cross-Government group to bring in an extra 50 million per year funding for civil aerospace research and development.
AeIGT is overseeing several pilot projects to develop future technologies in aerospace, including projects looking at:
The challenges of developing autonomous unmanned air vehicles
More environmentally friendly engines, reducing noise and air pollution
Electrical systems in aircraft, replacing current hydraulic systems
AeIGT is working with SEMTA, the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies to identify the skills gaps in the aerospace industry.
Ms Hewitt added that “the Airshow is a great advert for the vibrant, exciting aerospace industry we have in the UK. The excellent work of the AeIGT is well on the way to being implemented by the Government and the industry working together. I know that Sir Richard Evans and his team will continue to work hard to deliver the technologies and skills that will maintain our position as a world leader in aerospace.
"I am confident that the Spending Review measures, together with the commitment from our partners in national and regional government, will enable us to meet the AeIGT's recommendations for a National Aerospace Technology Strategy, including the proposed 50m per annum increase in Government funding for civil R&T." The creation of a National Aerospace Technology Plan was one of the major recommendations made last year by the Aerospace Innovation and Growth Team (AeIGT), a joint industry and government body chaired by Sir Richard Evans, formerly of British Aerospace. The AeIGT's report is available at www.sbac.co.uk/aeigt.