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Vince Cable opens up opportunities for UK composites companies

News International-French

29 Nov 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. Dr Cable formally opened the National Composites Centre (NCC) in Bristol on the 24th of November.

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 world-leading £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 showing what composite technology can do across a wide range of industries. An innovative 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, an elite network of world-leading technology and innovation centres to transform the UK’s capability for innovation, managed by the Technology Strategy Board.


In addition the centre has powerful 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”.


The NCC is hosted and owned by the University of Bristol. It is run by a Steering Board comprising the university and tier 1 members.


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."


The NCC is located on the Bristol and Bath Science Park.




About composite materials and the composites industry

Composites are made from at least two materials that together deliver engineering properties that are superior to those of the materials on their own. In practice, most composites consist of a weaker bulk material and a reinforcement of some kind, added primarily to increase the strength and stiffness of the material. It is the material modern tennis racquets, aeroplane wings, F1 chassis and large wind turbines are made of.

  • UK composites market expected to grow by around 8% pa to 2020;
  • The global industry for composites materials is estimated to grow in the mid-single digits to 2014. The two sectors that will drive this growth are anticipated to be aerospace and wind energy, expected to grow by over 15% and over 13% each year respectively;
  • There are several major opportunities for the UK
    • Wind energy with the potential deployment of up to 29GW of additional offshore wind capacity by 2020, the UK is the single, largest market for offshore wind globally for the foreseeable future
    • Wave and tidal
    • Aerospace
    • Automotive
    • Marine, construction and satellite
  • There are around 1500 companies in the UK composites sector, with 85% of business accounted for by the largest 38 companies.  These generate over £1.1bn of added value for the economy, around half of which is exported.



About the NCC

The NCC is located on Bristol & Bath Science Park and is owned and operated by the University of Bristol, and draws on established links to world class composites research at Bristol and other UK Universities.

The NCC is part of the first Technology and Innovation Centre – for High Value Manufacturing. The HVM Technology and Innovations Centre will provide an integrated capability and embrace all forms of manufacture using metals and composites, in addition to process manufacturing technologies and bio-processing.

It will draw on excellent university research to accelerate the commercialisation of new and emerging manufacturing technologies. This was the first of an elite network of Technology and Innovation Centres that are being established by the Technology Strategy Board with over £200m of Government investment overall.

The NCC’s mission is ‘To be an independent, open-access national centre that delivers world-class innovation in the design and rapid manufacture of composites and facilitates their widespread industrial exploitation.’

In November 2009 the Government launched the UK Composites Strategy. This highlighted the importance of composites to the future of UK manufacturing and the Government’s plans for ensuring that the UK has the means to succeed in intensely competitive global markets.

A key part of this strategy was the establishment of the National Composites Centre (NCC), which brings together dynamic companies and enterprising academics to develop new technologies for the design and rapid manufacture of high-quality composite products. The combination of academic and business strengths will speed progress from laboratory to design to factory and into products.

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). It is owned and hosted by the University of Bristol.



About ERDF

ERDF Competitiveness in the South West has one objective - to increase the prosperity of the region through supporting enterprises and individuals to develop ideas and plans which contribute to increased productivity and competitiveness. This objective is supported by four operational objectives:

  • Increasing the productivity of the region’s business base, through the promotion and support of innovation, research and development and the application of knowledge;
  • Reduce intra-regional disparities through stimulating enterprise and accelerating business growth in those parts of the region lagging behind;
  • To increase employment and enterprise in the region's most disadvantaged communities; and
  • Protect and enhance the region's environmental assets and work towards developing a low carbon economy.



About BIS

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills provided £12m towards the project from its Strategic Investment Fund which supported a small number of high-impact manufacturing related projects across the UK.



About the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA)

The HCA is the single, national housing and regeneration delivery agency for England. 

The HCA’s role in Bristol & Bath Science Park is one part of a wider transfer of around £300m of Regional Development Agency (RDA) land and property assets to the Agency, which completed on 19 September 2011. The HCA will manage these assets to deliver economic growth and regeneration for local communities. For more information, visit the HCA website.

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) is now responsible for working with partners to develop the project and the wider Bristol & Bath Science Park, where the NCC is based. This will be managed as part of a stewardship agreement with the Government covering three nationally important technology parks, including Bristol & Bath Science Park, Ansty Park, Coventry and the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham.



About the Bristol & Bath Science Park

The Bristol & Bath Science Park is a 59 acre (24 hectare) site in Emerson's Green, north Bristol, which will become home to up to 6,000 jobs.

The Science Park will be the hub for the region's many science and technology businesses, connecting entrepreneurs, fledgling businesses and established brands with vital investors, academia and design. The Universities of Bath, Bristol and West of England are key stakeholders in the Science Park.



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