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Real potential for growth in Bristol as Vince Cable opens National Composites Centre

Business Secretary Vince Cable at the launch of the National Composites Centre

Business Secretary Vince Cable at the launch of the National Composites Centre Martin Chainey

Professor Guy Orpen, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Bristol, Jim Goodman, Chair of the NCC's Steering Board, Business Secretary Vince Cable and Peter Chivers, Chief Executive of the NCC

Professor Guy Orpen, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at the University of Bristol, Jim Goodman, Chair of the NCC's Steering Board, Business Secretary Vince Cable and Peter Chivers, Chief Executive of the NCC Martin Chainey

Press release issued: 24 November 2011

An innovative car, flight refuelling kit and turbine blades showcased the latest in composite technology to the Business Secretary Vince Cable, who formally opened the National Composites Centre in Bristol today [Thursday 24 November].

Dr Cable was joined by more than 200 guests to see first-hand the fantastic capabilities of the centre, which is part of Bristol University. 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 £25million investment supported by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the South West Regional Development Agency and 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 with the private sector being involved from the inception. AgustaWestland, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, GKN, Umeco and Vestas have committed almost £5.5million of work over three years, and that’s not to underestimate the importance of small and medium sized enterprises. This year alone sees £5million of work from industry.

Professor Guy Orpen, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Bristol, said: "The National Composites Centre 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."

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, located on the Bristol and Bath Science Park, is hosted and owned by the University of Bristol. It is run by a steering board comprising of the University and tier one members - AgustaWestland, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, GKN, Umeco and Vestas.


Further information

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.

The UK composites market is expected to grow by around 8 per cent per annum until 2020. There are around 1,500 companies in the UK composites sector, with 85 per cent of business accounted for by the largest 38 companies. These generate over £1.1billion of added value for the economy, around half of which is exported.

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