The Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre, the latest in a series of major investments in research activity at the University, aims to make a significant contribution to the metals industry, which is worth £17billion a year to the UK economy. It is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
Professor Zhongyun Fan, Professor of Metallurgy at the University, will lead the Liquid Metals Engineering (LiME) Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre. He said: "The UK metal industry employs 400,000 people, with over 29,000 metals-based enterprises around the country. Much of the UK economy is built on metals, and many of our key manufacturing industries depend on a supply of high-performance metallic materials that enable them to compete internationally."
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 safeguard the role of the metals industry in wealth creation by 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 every year - without jeopardising efficient production of high-quality metallic materials.
"We have a specific vision for the future of solidification science, materials processing technologies and a sustainable metallurgical industry. Our vision for the future metallurgical industry is full metal recirculation through advanced technologies for reuse, remanufacture and recycling of secondary metals."
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. The Universities of Oxford and Birmingham are also partners in the LiME Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre, which will operate as a single entity across the three universities. Investment from EPSRC will total £4.5million over a five-year period starting next month; the industrial partners will contribute a further £4.6million.
Today's news has been welcomed by Professor Geoff Rodgers, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at Brunel. "Manufacturing is vitally important to the UK economy, so I am particularly delighted that a manufacturing research programme led by Brunel University has been selected for funding by the EPSRC," he said. "This award means that Brunel will now be leading two of the 19 Innovative Manufacturing Research Centres funded by the EPSRC and positions Brunel as an internationally leading contributor to research and training related to the manufacturing sector."
The other Brunel Innovative Manufacturing Research Centre focuses on research and assessment of healthcare technology.
News of the latest project was announced today by Lord Mandelson, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, as part of a £70m investment in a wave of EPSRC centres across the UK. Alongside the Brunel project, centres in regenerative medicine (at Loughborough University) and in photonics (at the University of Southampton) have also been announced.
In announcing the new centres, 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."
Professor David Delpy, chief executive of EPSRC, said the new Brunel centre and the others would "focus on areas of pioneering research that has the potential to create new industries and new jobs for the UK".
He added: "They will save lives through advances in regenerative medicine, develop recycled forms of metal which are environmentally friendly, and harness light to revolutionise the internet and telecommunications."