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UK National Composites Centre to be built on Bristol's SPark

  • Friday, 26th March 2010
  • Reading time: about 5 minutes

SPark, the Bristol and Bath science park, will be home to the UK’s National Composites Centre ( NCC ) – a brand new research facility for composite materials.

The National Composites Centre Steering Board confirmed the state-of-the art centre’s location at a conference in Bristol last week, attended by Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, Ian Lucas, and hosted by the South West Regional Development Agency ( RDA ) and the University of Bristol.

The conference was held to encourage major manufacturers to join companies such as Airbus, AgustaWestland, GE, GKN, Rolls-Royce and Vestas to become National Composites Centre partners and supporters.

The NCC will be an independent, open-access facility for the design and rapid manufacture of high-quality composite products. The 70,000 sq ft ( 6,500 sq m ) building will provide the very latest in design and a high-tech manufacturing facility, all in one place. More than 200 leading industry researchers and academic experts will be based at the centre, working together to speed new technologies through the design and laboratory phases and into production.

The decision to base the NCC in Bristol was made last November, along with the announcement of £16 million in public funding. When this £16 million ( comprising £12 million from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and £4 million from the South West RDA ) is combined with other public and private funding, the total investment will come to over £25 million.

Speaking at the launch event in Bristol, Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, Ian Lucas, said: “The National Composites Centre will play a major role in maintaining the UK’s lead in the development of composites. These lightweight high-performance materials are key to cutting the environmental impact of industries that have traditionally been heavy carbon emitters. This new Centre will help create the conditions to support long-term growth in the low carbon sector. SPark is an ideal location for the NCC, where it will be surrounded by cutting edge research and development by some of the world’s most innovative firms.”

Professor Guy Orpen, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Bristol, and Chair of the NCC’s Steering Board, said: “”Today’s conference will outline our vision for the new Centre. It will be an independent, open-access national facility that delivers world-class innovation in the design and rapid manufacture of composites, and enables their widespread industrial exploitation. The Centre will also be an international hub, linking activities across all industrial sectors in the UK in research, education and training, technology transfer and incubation of new enterprises using advanced composite materials.””

Graham Harrison, Director of International Business, South West RDA ( Regional Development Agency ), said: “The fact that major industry players such as Airbus, GKN, Rolls-Royce and Vestas, with interests in renewable energy, aerospace, automotive and marine sectors, are already on board with the National Composites Centre shows just how important the facility will be. Since the announcement of the NCC last November, new partners Agusta Westland and General Electric ( GE ) have pledged their support.

“Today is about telling the rest of the manufacturing industry just how much will be on offer here – from state of the art computer design suites to on site manufacturing facilities. What’s more, it’ll be situated on one of the UK’s biggest science parks – a hub for innovation and high-tech research.”

Ian Chatting, Vice President, Vestas Technology UK Ltd and NCC Steering Board Member, said: “Composite materials are a key technology enabler for the provision of modern renewable energy systems. Vestas have more than 40,000 wind turbines installed worldwide, all depend on composite structures to deliver efficient, affordable, reliable power to our homes. We are pleased to support a national centre which brings together the significant expertise that we have in the UK under one roof and is so aligned with our own technology activities.”

Dave Dawson, Technology Executive – Purchasing, Rolls-Royce and NCC Steering Board Member said: “Composite materials are playing an increasingly important role right across our portfolio – from aircraft engine casings to tidal generation turbine blades. But we need to understand the possibilities better, so that Rolls-Royce can become an intelligent specifier and intelligent customer of composite components. We see the NCC as an important vehicle for achieving this goal and for helping us work with our strategic suppliers.”

Tonianne Dwyer from Quantum, the organisation developing SPark, said: “”The location of the National Composites Centre at SPark is the first step in making this science park an international hub for ground-breaking research and development. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the NCC when their facility opens next year.””

While the NCC will not be fully operational until 2011, activities will get under way before then via centres of excellence around the UK, including the University of Bristol’s Advanced Composites Centre for Innovation and Science ( ACCIS ).

A planning application will be made to South Gloucestershire Council in April.

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