Vince Cable Opens Up Opportunities for UK Composites Companies

29 November 2011

An innovative car, flight refuelling kit and turbine blades showcased the latest in composite technology to the Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills as he formally opened the National Composites Centre (NCC) in Bristol on 24th November.

According to NCC, Dr Cable was joined by more than 200 guests to see first-hand the fantastic capabilities of the centre. He was shown around the centre and saw state-of-the-art machinery, including a £2.5m robotic, automatic fibre placement. Dr Cable also met some of the highly skilled engineers that will assist UK manufacturers to develop and commercialise new technologies and products.

The event was accompanied by an exhibition of the NCC’s members to show what composite technology can do across a wide range of industries. An electric car built with a composite body, tidal turbine blades, and new aircraft wing components were amongst a range of items that showcased the potential applications of the latest composite technology.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said “Here in the UK we are very good at invention, but we need to do more to innovate and turn our ideas into products and jobs. I don’t want the UK to miss out on any opportunities to create economic growth through manufacturing.

"This centre will work with our world class universities and international businesses based in the South West and across the UK, to develop and commercialise new technologies. Its work will strengthen our manufacturing sector, exploiting the next generation of advanced composite materials and helping maintain our global lead in this technology area. I look forward to seeing what they produce." 

The NCC is a £25m investment supported by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (£12m), the South West RDA (Regional Development Agency) (£4m), and £9m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The NCC is also part of the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Technology and Innovation Centre initiative, a network of world-leading technology and innovation centres to transform the UK’s capability for innovation, managed by the Technology Strategy Board.

In addition, NCC explains it has support from industry. The private sector was involved from the inception of the NCC. Tier 1 members - AgustaWestland, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, GKN, Umeco and Vestas - have committed almost £5½m of work over three years, and that’s not to underestimate the importance of small and medium sized enterprises. This year alone sees £5m of work from industry.

Baroness Hanham, Communities Minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government, which is responsible for administering the European Regional Development Fund, said “The National Composite Centre is a fabulous example of national and European funding working together to create opportunities for economic growth.  By helping businesses and their supply chains to capitalise on new technologies, it is investing in long term jobs and benefits for communities. The fund is led by local partners who recognised that the opportunity to invest in the National Composite Centre would create a world class facility which benefits both the immediate locality and UK manufacturing as a whole."

Jim Godman, Chair of the NCC’s Steering Board, added “We are delighted to welcome the Secretary of State to formally launch our new centre and highlight that we are well and truly open for business. The NCC is a fantastic national asset and is a catalyst for real change in the industry.  It has something for all businesses involved in composites manufacture, across all sectors. We already have commitments from large and medium sized enterprises involved in renewable energy, aerospace, automotive, defence, marine and rail, and expect this list to grow.  We have mechanisms in place for engaging more small and medium sized enterprises, because the centre is generating significant interest from all sectors of UK based businesses.

"We are now focussed on working closely with industrial partners, the University of Bristol and other centres of academic excellence as well as our partner centres from the HVM Technology and Innovation Centre to ensure the UK remains competitive in the expanding global market place and therefore that the UK Composites manufacturing industry can contribute significantly to the country’s economy.”

Iain Gray, CEO of the Technology Strategy Board said “We are delighted with the role that the NCC is playing in the HVM Technology and Innovation Centre. Research into composites will play an important part if the UK is to grow its economy through boosting High Value Manufacturing businesses in the UK. The application of fibre reinforced polymer composite materials offers vast commercial opportunities to UK manufacturers in many industries including:  automotive, marine, aerospace, wind and wave, construction, oil and gas and medical equipment”.

Professor Guy Orpen, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Bristol, added "The National Composites Centre (NCC) is a stand out exemplar of the application of world-leading academic research underpinning open innovation between and across industry sectors.  The University of Bristol is proud to play a pivotal role in hosting this exciting venture and we look forward to the NCC achieving great things for the UK and for composites globally."

Marcus Bryson, CEO and President, GKN Aerospace and GKN Land Systems commented "We are a founding member of the UK's National Composites Network, launched in 2005 and are committed to the Government’s National Composites Strategy. This new centre will be a vital resource for the UK, assisting in extending the expertise of our manufacturing sector in the highly skilled and evolving area of composites manufacture. It will be a key resource for us at GKN Aerospace as we and our team of suppliers work to maximise the UK's involvement in the growing global aerospace market over the next 30 to 40 years."

Jon Mabbitt, Managing Director of Umeco Composites Structural Materials said “Yesterday’s opening was a resounding success and demonstrated the UK’s commitment to use the composites manufacturing industry as a key player in the UK’s economic growth. Research and Technology is a key strategic focus for Umeco. We strongly believe that our membership of the NCC will enable us to develop a close working relationship with world-leading manufacturers and UK academics to develop new technologies and bring them to market more expediently.”

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