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Minister marks starts of NCC expansion work

Peter Chivers [left] with Michael Fallon and industry leaders and academics

Peter Chivers [left] with Michael Fallon and industry leaders and academics

Press release issued: 15 May 2013

Construction on the second phase of the National Composites Centre (NCC), a world leading research and technology hub owned by the University of Bristol, got underway yesterday with a turf cutting ceremony attended by the Business Minister Michael Fallon.

The doubling in size of the NCC, which is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, is being supported by Government funding of £28 million. The expansion will allow the NCC to extend its capabilities to develop composite technology for the aerospace, automotive, renewable energy and rail sectors. This will create an additional 50 NCC jobs, 30-50 jobs within the member organisations and 80-150 construction jobs during the build phase.

As well as providing increased capacity and a dedicated high speed composite manufacturing technology facility, there will be a new world-class training centre for higher level and vocational skills development. This will help train the next generation of engineers in composites manufacturing and technologies and bring together leading businesses, colleges and Universities.

Business Minister Michael Fallon said: "This technology and innovation centre is an important asset for the south west and the UK. It is a real collaborative success story and helping to give us a competitive advantage in composites - a vital technology in high value manufacturing.

"Composites manufacturing is a real growth industry for the future. It’s very exciting to see that work on the extension is now underway thanks to government support and funding. These plans will make it one of the largest research and technology centres of its type in the world and help to maintain our global lead in this technology area. It will increase the centre's ability to get new products from the laboratory to the shop-floor and widen the scope of its activities."

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

Professor Guy Orpen, Pro Vice-Chancellor Research at the University of Bristol, said: "The success of the NCC and the strong support of industry partners prompted the University to bid to the Government to expand its scale and range of activities. The successful bid will lead to the doubling of the physical size of the NCC to around 17,000 square metres.

"A substantial part of the expansion will be for academic and training use. As well as providing space for technician skills training, it will accommodate University staff, students, and in particular postgraduates in the field of materials science and engineering, alongside other academic and industrial researchers. This bringing together of leading academics from multiple universities, with HE and FE learners, alongside industrial technology and prototype product development activities, all under one roof, is a breakthrough model and will offer UK industry and academia a huge collaborative advantage.

"The second phase of the NCC marks the beginning of what is becoming a major engineering, science and innovation campus in the north of the city."

NCC Chief Executive Professor Peter Chivers said, "The Minister’s support reflects the Government’s on-going commitment to High Value Manufacturing and its growth in the UK. The extended NCC will provide for further innovation in composites manufacturing and technology development, skills and education, and offers greater support for SMEs and the supply chain across all sectors. It will be fundamental in enabling the UK to remain competitive in this rapidly growing global market."

He continued, "As well as initiating the NCC, another key element of the UK Composite Strategy was to form the UK Composite Leadership Forum (CLF), which we have facilitated here at the NCC. The CLF brings together senior industrialists, academics, funders and policy makers to identify and articulate industry’s common needs and shared actions to enable future growth. With the industry backing, the expert academic research and the state-of-the-art NCC facilities, we now have a world-class platform for catalysing that growth."

The Government’s Catapult programme is managed by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), the UK’s innovation agency. The TSB announced today that it will invest a record £440 million this year to support innovative businesses and drive growth across the UK. The 2013-14 Delivery Plan sets out the Board’s priorities for the coming year as part of their commitment to knowledge sharing and collaboration. It also explains how businesses will be able to access an even wider range of support across the entire innovation journey. Technology areas that will benefit from the investment include renewable energy, future cities, advanced materials, satellites, digital technologies and healthcare.

The National Composites Centre is on Bristol & Bath Science Park, forming a key science and technology hub. The minister will also meet with several early stage technology companies who are tenants of the Park.

Bonnie Dean, Chief Executive of Bristol & Bath Science Park, said: "It is very encouraging to see the government putting additional investment into the NCC so soon after it opened."

Further information

About the NCC

The NCC opened in November 2011 to meet the needs of industry which is increasingly making use of composite materials which are light, strong and corrosion resistant. The Centre, which is owned by the University of Bristol, has world-class expertise and industrial-scale facilities that are being used to develop the technologies which will result in more fuel efficient land, sea and air vehicles as well as, for example, the next generation of wind and marine renewable energy devices.

The NCC is part of the first Technology and Innovation Centre, “Catapult 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.

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. The Government announced a further £28m in the 2012 Autumn Statement for the expansion of the NCC.

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 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.