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UK Consortium Named Winner of £5 Million Composites Grand Challenge

09 April 2010

A consortium of 23 companies led by GKN Aerospace has today been announced as the winner of a unique competition for a £5 million prize awarded to British business to develop innovative composite manufacturing techniques for high-performance, high-value products.

The three-stage Composites Grand Challenge was managed by the Technology Strategy Board on behalf of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which funded the competition through the Strategic Investment Fund. Launched by the Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, in November 2009 as part of the Government’s Composites Strategy, the competition saw UK companies receive initial funding for feasibility studies, with the best then invited to develop and test their concept before the £5m prize was awarded to the winning proposal.

The winning proposal, “Inspirational Composite Technologies,” came from a consortium led by GKN Aerospace – the National Composites Centre Consortium – which involves 23 companies and organisations from a range of sectors including marine, automotive and aerospace: ABB Ltd, Advanced Composites Group Ltd, Airbus Operations Ltd, Aircelle UK Ltd, Bentley Motors Ltd, Bombardier Aerospace Belfast, Cobham PLC, EPL Composite Solutions Ltd, ESI UK Ltd, Frazer-Nash Consultancy Ltd, Güdel Lineartec (UK) Ltd, KUKA Automation + Robotics, Loop Technologies Ltd, Materials Engineering Research Laboratory Ltd, NorthWest Aerospace Alliance, Princess Yachts International plc, Rolls-Royce plc, Sheffield University AMRC, Sigmatex (UK) Ltd, Spirit Aerosystems (Europe) Ltd, ThyssenKrupp System Engineering Ltd, Vestas Technology UK Ltd. Together with funding from these companies the winning proposal will result in a £10m investment in advanced composites manufacturing in the UK.

Explaining the background to the competition, Dr John Morlidge, Lead Technologist for Advanced Materials at the Technology Strategy Board, said:

”Part of the objective was to encourage business collaboration, aiming to create a new force for innovation in a rather fragmented sector. We are delighted to see a strong and diverse consortium winning the prize, involving companies from different sectors – some of them even competitors. These partners have found a way to work together to look at wider problems facing their industry around affordable, rapid and sustainable manufacturing.”

“It is essential that UK industry capitalises on the unique properties of composites and seizes the opportunities from a growing global market for advanced composites products including aircraft wings, wind turbine blades, car components and many other applications. Most composites industries worldwide lack the technology to manufacture large structures cost effectively. This is the Grand Challenge – finding innovative approaches and sharing them across UK industry will deliver a major boost to the country’s leadership in this area.”

Commenting on the win, Rich Oldfield, Technical Director at consortium leader GKN Aerospace said: “GKN is very pleased that the National Composites Centre Consortium has been awarded the Grand Challenge prize. It is a unique opportunity to collaborate closely with partners across a wide range of sectors. The programme will inspire the delivery to market of high performance, high value products from the UK advanced composites industry.” The winning consortium now has a year to work on the Grand Challenge, demonstrate advances and begin to commercially exploit the development.





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