Aerospace Alliance Lead North West Composites Study

07 October 2005

The UK's North West Aerospace Alliance's (NWAA) Aerospace Innovation Centre (AIC) project team has been selected to lead an in-depth study into the future for fibre reinforced polymer composites in the North West.

Advanced capability in carbon fibre composites is seen as crucial to the future of the aerospace sector, in addition to other key industries, including chemicals and automotive.

Dr Neil Calder, of the NWAA’s AIC team, will lead the project, which has attracted funding from the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA). Its findings and conclusions will be reported to the NWDA next spring.

Leading companies already engaged in the study include BAE SYSTEMS, Airbus, Brookhouse Holdings Ltd, CML Group Ltd, and materials supplier Cytec Engineered Materials. There will also be input from other key stakeholders including the University of Manchester, the North West Textiles Network and the North West Automotive Alliance.

Dr David Bailey, Executive Director of the AIC, comments: “An increasingly large proportion of all new aircraft now feature carbon fibre composites in place of traditional metallic components. This trend is set to continue with even more carbon fibre being used and new uses for it being developed.

“It is crucial that the North West aerospace cluster defines what sort of critical mass in carbon fibre technology and production we will need in the future, then to map out how we intend to implement the core capabilities that will be necessary for the region to succeed in an increasingly competitive area.”

He added: “We are grateful for the support of the NWDA and the contributions from our industrial partners and stakeholders, which will help us to extend the scope of the study.”

Mark Hughes, NWDA Executive Director of Enterprise, Innovation and Skills, said: “The aerospace sector is of key strategic importance to both England’s Northwest and the UK as a whole and the NWDA is working closely with the NWAA to maintain the region as a global centre of excellence for the industry. In order to build on the region’s world-class capabilities in this sector, it is vital that we continue to invest in developing new technologies for the future. This project will make critical advances in this important area, ensuring that Northwest aerospace continues to be a major force in the national and global aerospace industry.”

The North West Aerospace Alliance (NWAA) is an industry-led organisation representing more than 800 companies and organisations in the aerospace and high technology engineering industries in England’s North West. One of its principal objectives is to market the World Class technology and skills that the region has to offer.

The Alliance’s membership covers all areas of aerospace activity, from the prime contractors such as BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce plc, right through the supply chain to small subcontractors. All types of aerospace products are supplied by the Alliance’s membership.

The NWAA promotes the Aerospace Industry in the North West of England, as well as lobbying in the interests of the UK industry as a whole in Europe.

The North West is the largest single centre of the UK Aerospace Industry. The area produces around £6.8 billion in aerospace output each year – a quarter of the total UK output – and it supports more than 60,000 jobs in the region. Around 75% of the region’s aerospace output goes for export.

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