Collaborative Research Network in Innovative Manufacturing Launched
The new Innovative Manufacturing Collaborative Research Network (IMCRN) will provide UK industry with access to Brunel’s extensive manufacturing capability and create new opportunities for innovation in knowledge transfer, cross-disciplinary research and industrial collaboration.
Over 70 delegates from industry, professional bodies, Brunel and other universities attended the launch event, which featured guest speakers from the Technology Strategy Board, TWI, PERA and the Manufacturing Technologies Association. A key theme was the importance of collaboration to the future of both academia and manufacturing in the UK, in light of a Government drive to generate long-term sustainable growth by pushing UK manufacturing into increasingly high-value and high-tech areas.
Speakers from within Brunel gave examples of the University’s record in successful industrial collaborative ventures, and a number of new projects and directions were proposed during networking sessions. To develop these and other projects, the IMCRN will draw on the expertise of the 500 researchers working in manufacturing across the University.
Outlining their vision for the new CRN, Director Professor Kai Cheng and CRN Co-ordinator Dr Richard Bateman stated that, with the combined support of the University, the members of the CRN and the professional bodies,“wecangetthenetworkbuiltandrunasarealhub,inaninnovative, robust and impacting manner both inside and outside of Brunel”
Prior to the launch, Professor Cheng explained that the new IMCRN was needed now because the nature of manufacturing had fundamentally changed. He commented, “In the last few decades, manufacturing has moved from comprising those activities which take place within the factory walls to a multi-skilled, multi-disciplinary cycle of activities combining research, design and development, production, logistics, service provision and end-of-life management.
Many different players and partners up and down the value chain are needed to undertake these activities. As a result, it has become difficult for all but the largest players to assemble the skills, knowledge and technologies needed to develop new products and services successfully.
The IMCRN will enable UK manufacturers of all sizes to access in one place the expertise they need.”
Dr Bateman highlighted that, despite widespread public perception, manufacturing remains absolutely critical to the UK’s economy. “Manufacturing accounts for 14-15% of the UK’s GDP, 50-55% of exports, and employs three million people. Most people are surprised to hear that the UK is the sixth largest manufacturer in the world.”
Professor Geoff Rodgers, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at Brunel University, commented the launch of the IMCRN was a “natural and important step” for Brunel. “The network will provide a lively forum and interface between Brunel’s manufacturing researchers and our industrial partners. It will build collaboration between researchers in different disciplines and ensure they are working on problems of interest and value to business and the
British economy. Most importantly, it will provide an environment in which manufacturing research at Brunel, and our long track record for innovative industrial collaboration, will sustain and prosper.”
Closing the event, the Vice Chancellor Professor Chris Jenks emphasised the University’s commitment to working closely with industry for the benefit of society, and described the launch as “a strong signal of our intentions here at Brunel”.
The overall objective of the IMCRN is to support the published government strategy of moving UK manufacturing ‘up the value chain’ and into high-value, high-technology areas which will provide sustainable and long-term growth for manufacturing industries in the UK.
The main aim of the newly launched IMCRN will be to facilitate ‘cross-pollination’ within the research community at Brunel and to support new and innovative cross-disciplinary collaborations by making use of and building upon existing world-class research and development within the University.
A secondary aim is to strengthen and establish new links and collaborations with industrial partners and to provide UK industry a “route of access” to specialist expertise in the field of innovative manufacturing.
Future plans for the network
A basic requirements for any CRN is that it should be ‘self-propelling.’ To this end a number of future events are planned:
- Internal sandpit event - which will be aimed at teasing outcollaborative ‘themes’ within the IMCRN to better understand what directions collaboration should take.
- External Launch event - to present the IMCRN ‘to the world’.
- IMCRN Seminar series - including internally based collaboration‘hub’ seminars and networking events, external seminars with internationally recognised experts, technical seminars from appropriate external organisations but hosted by the IMCRN.
- Interactive web-based forum - utilising social networkingprinciples to allow online discussion threads, posting of project updates, images, event announcements, multi-disciplinary funding calls.
- Mini ‘open-days’ – where member departments, Institutes,Centres, etc. open their doors to CRN members for a couple of hours and show off their facilities and projects.
- Online education and dissemination webinars - these will be runby individuals within the CRN to promote specific expertise, research areas, projects or facilities/capabilities.
- IMCRN ‘Presence’ at other appropriate events – the IMCRN willhave standard flyers, handouts and stand banner materials which members can use to establish a presence at external or internal events.
Contact the CRN
Prof Kai Cheng
+44 (0)1985 265255
Dr Richard Bateman
+44 (0)1895 267078