Brunel University has launched a £9 million metal engineering centre which promises to rejuvenate the UK's flagging manufacturing sector.
The pioneering Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre - funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) - aims to make a significant contribution to the £17 billion a year metals industry through the development of advanced technologies for reuse, remanufacture and recycling of secondary metals.
Professor Zhongyun Fan, Professor of Metallurgy at the University, will lead the Liquid Metals Engineering (LiME) Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre. He said: "The metal industry has traditionally been strong in the UK, but in recent years it has fallen into decline due to the economic downturn and competition overseas.
"As a sector that employs 400,000 people and brings billions into the economy, the Government has recognised the need to invest in new research and new technologies that will secure a future for key manufacturing industries depend on a supply of high-performance metallic materials."
The UK's manufacturing industry faces huge challenges. While its clients demand stronger, more durable and more lightweight components and structures, the industry must deliver while also minimising energy consumption, carbon footprint and overall environmental impact.
Professor Fan added: "We aim to developing manufacturing technologies that cut carbon emissions by millions of tonnes, reduce energy use by trillions of kilo-watt hours and save millions of tonnes of natural resources over the coming years - without jeopardising efficient production of high-quality metallic materials."
A total of 15 industrial partners from across the supply chain, as well as industry trade bodies and knowledge transfer networks, will work with the research project and contribute a £4.6million to its development. The remaining investment from EPSRC will total £4.5million over a five-year period. The Universities of Oxford and Birmingham are also partners in the project which will operate as a single entity across the three universities.
Professor Geoff Rodgers, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at Brunel, said: "The launch of LiME is a significant event for Brunel University. It positions Brunel as an internationally leading contributor to research in manufacturing, a sector vitally important to the UK economy.
"The LiME programme will develop a portfolio of innovative metal processing technologies, which will allow greater levels of metal recycling, thereby substantially reducing both the worlds’ energy consumption and its CO2 emissions. Access to these technologies will allow the UK metal casting industry and its customers to improve their competitiveness in global markets."
News of the project was announced in January by Lord Mandelson, the then Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, as part of a £70 million investment in a wave of EPSRC centres across the UK. Making the announcement Lord Mandelson said: "A highly skilled, innovative manufacturing sector is vital to Britain's future economic growth.
"This £70million of Government funding will see universities and businesses working together to commercialise academic research. With more investment to bring these two sectors together we can strengthen our future innovation and growth."
Photography from the event is available via email
Research at Brunel University: Brunel is a research-intensive university, where 82 per cent of research is rated as being of international standing (Research Assessment Exercise 2008). Its research focus is on addressing the issues facing humankind in a cross-disciplinary framework.
Brunel will now be leading two of the 19 Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres funded by the EPSRC. The other Brunel Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre focuses on research and assessment of healthcare technology.