Composites Grand Challenge" Celebrates Technical Success

14 June 2011

I-Composites, a consortium of 22 companies from across British industry and led by GKN Aerospace, has concluded a unique one year challenge set by the Technology Strategy Board on behalf of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

The programme, titled ""The Composites Grand Challenge"", required the companies to collaborate to progress innovations in composite manufacturing technologies with an aim to extend the UK's ability to rapidly and sustainably manufacture affordable, high-performance composite products.

The i-Composites consortium will now be showcasing the results of their research and sharing the outcomes across UK industry to boost the country's leadership in this area. Business Minister Mark Prisk said about their exhibition at BIS that it ""demonstrates the success of the joint funded Grand Challenge programme. It also highlights the UK expertise that is putting our country at the forefront of new developments. The composite market is a high value and fast growing sector with huge opportunities to create economic growth. Opportunities in the UK wind turbine blade and aerospace markets alone will be worth an estimated GBP22bn by 2020.""

""Later this year the new Government funded National Composites Centre will open in Bristol providing manufacturing facilities on an industrial scale, capable of building prototypes to validate design concepts and rapid manufacturing process."" The final showcase event for the i-Composites programme will be at the newly built National Composites Centre at SPark in Bristol towards the end of July.

The competition to win the Grand Challenge was run by the Technology Strategy Board on behalf of BIS who funded the competition. The winning consortium gained GBP10m funding - GBP5m from BIS with matched funds from the participating companies. This funding has been used to progress 26 projects which were focused around 5 themes: energy reduction, automation, process time reduction, materials and sustainability.

Marcus Bryson, CEO of GKN Aerospace said, ""Without doubt, the Grand Challenge programme has substantially progressed the UK's manufacturing capabilities in the growing field of composites. We encourage BIS and the Technology Strategy Board to embark on further programmes of this nature in order to maintain the momentum the Grand Challenge has stimulated and support the creation of sustainable economic growth for the UK.""

I-Composites promote results from a year of work across the research programme include the development of advanced methods of wing manufacture, the development and validation of rapid curing technologies and techniques to significantly increase the affordability and availability of high performance composite fabrics. In the latter case a significant automotive market opportunity has been established.

""When we set the Composites Grand Challenge last year, part of the objective was to create a new, strong force for innovation in a sector that has been fragmented. We are delighted to see that this diverse consortium has worked so well together to address the challenges faced by their industry. They have found innovative approaches, shared the outcomes of their research and moved the UK's manufacturing capabilities forward in this vital and growing sector,"" said Dr John Morlidge, Lead Technologist for Advanced Materials at the Technology Strategy Board.

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