£30 million boost for infrastructure safety studies

New research – involving the University of Strathclyde – that will improve the safety and efficiency of gas turbines, rail tracks, fuel pipelines and other important infrastructure is to receive a £30 million boost from government and industry.

The two packages of research, announced by Business Secretary Vince Cable, will:

  • develop advanced materials such as high-performance alloys for use in aerospace industries, to further improve the efficiency, safety and noise levels of gas turbines
  • investigate new and better methods of non-destructive evaluation (NDE) to improve the safety and longevity of critical UK infrastructure and to support and enable high-value manufacturing across important UK industry sectors.

Business Secretary Vince Cable (right) visits a CMAC laboratory with the Centre's Director, Professor Alastair Florence

Mr Cable said:

"These new £30 million partnerships are a significant investment in the development of advanced materials to support aerospace and high-value manufacturing across the UK. The collaborations between universities and businesses, including the likes of Rolls-Royce, Tata Steel and GKN are an excellent example of how our Industrial Strategy is giving businesses the confidence to invest and secure a stronger, more balanced economy."

Professor Philip Nelson, Chief Executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), said:

"These investments show how valuable long term partnerships between industry and the research councils can be. In this instance delivering better understanding of materials will bring efficiencies in production, maintenance and cost savings and help to maintain an exemplary safety record.

"EPSRC will continue to forge such collaborations to make the UK the best place for research and innovation."

Professor Tony Dunhill, Associate Fellow for NDT at Rolls-Royce, said:

"Rolls-Royce is delighted to be a co-investor in both of these Strategic Partnerships, Structural Metallic Systems for Advanced Gas Turbines and Non-Destructive Testing. The increasing demands placed on our products, together with the extreme environments in which they operate, mean that investing in skills and knowledge in advanced materials and Non-Destructive Testing is essential for our business."

UK Research Centre in Non-Destructive Evaluation

The centre is a consortium led by Imperial College London, involving Strathclyde – with representatives from the Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, and the Department of Mathematics & Statistics – and the universities of Bristol, Manchester, Nottingham, and Warwick. It will involve more than 40 companies across major industry sectors including aerospace, nuclear, and oil and gas, developing tools and techniques to detect defects and extend the life and prevent failure of critical UK infrastructure such as pipelines, power stations and aircraft.

The centre will be funded by a £5.4 million grant over six years from EPSRC and this will be matched by an equivalent £5.4 million in cash and in-kind contributions from industrial partners of the NDE Research Association (NDEvR) through its own Strategic Partnership with EPSRC.

Non-Destructive Evaluation involves the use of sensor and imaging technologies to assess the condition of components and structures in many situations, from manufacture and throughout their service lives.

The Strategic Partnership in Structural Metallic Systems for Advanced Gas Turbine Applications

This is the next stage in a 10-year partnership between Rolls-Royce and the EPSRC. It will develop advanced materials to reduce fuel consumption and noise and increase aviation efficiency.

The programme will involve researchers at the universities of Birmingham, Cambridge, and Swansea University – who are also core funding partners – in addition to Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield and Imperial College London, as well as industry partners such as TWI, Timet and Tata Steel. It will be funded by £8 million EPSRC contribution and £12 million in cash and in-kind support from Rolls-Royce.