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£10m boost for liquid metals research


A £10 million manufacturing research hub at Brunel that will address major, long-term challenges facing the UK’s manufacturing industries, and capture opportunities from emerging research has been announced by Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson.

The Manufacturing Hub in Future Liquid Metal Engineering is funded for the next seven years by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Led by Professor Zhongyun Fan it will have a programme of innovative research in the engineering and physical sciences, related to the challenges in commercialising early stage research.

Metallic materials are the backbone of manufacturing and the fuel for economic growth. The UK metal casting industry adds £2.6bn each year to the UK economy, employs 30,000 people, produces 1.14 million tons of metal castings per year and underpins the competitive position of every sector of UK manufacturing.

However, the industry faces severe challenges, including increasing energy and materials costs, tightening environmental regulations and a short supply of skilled people. The Future Liquid Metal Engineering Hub will address these challenges.

The core activities will be based at Brunel strongly supported by the complementary expertise of academic spokes at Oxford, Leeds, and Manchester Universities and Imperial College with over £45 million investment from industrial partners in addition to the £10 million invested by EPSRC.

Impact of the hub will initially be in the UK automotive industry and its supply chain and then the wider transportation industry. The hub will be a technology proving ground, and will provide:

· shortened lead time from technology concept to industrial production;

· advanced manufacturing technologies to provide technological advantages over competitors;

· recycling-friendly advanced metallic materials with reduced cost;

· and improved sustainability due to reduced CO2 emissions, conservation of natural resources and consequently reduced environmental impact

This will make a major contribution to rebalancing the UK economy. Further economic impact will be through retaining and recycling aluminium scrap into high value automotive castings, extrusions and sheet for lightweight vehicles with an opportunity to add £800 million in terms of added value each year.