£3.8 million for UK carbon fibre research

The Government has awarded Runcorn-based, carbon fibre converter, Sigmatex, £3.8 million to aid in the development and manufacture of carbon fibre for the production of lightweight cars.

The project is aimed at addressing the lack of high volume production of carbon fibre in the automotive industry.

The grant comes from the government-backed Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI) and has been awarded for the company’s lightweight excellence programme (LX). The rest of the money for the project is coming from industry with the goals of linking design, manufacture and the capacity for production of carbon fibre in the automotive industry.

According to the Government, Sigmatex will be receiving the £3.8 million grant and £240,000 loan as part of a £7.1 million project they are leading with University of Warwick, Expert Tooling and Automation Ltd, Cranfield University, Sirder Spinning Ltd, Granta Design Ltd, Joseph Rhodes Ltd, LMAT ltd, Caparo and Surface Generation.

The LX programme plans to aid OEMs in creating lighter frames and chassis in order to comply with stricter EU legislation on fuel emissions that come in to effect in 2020. The project will safeguard 144 jobs, as well as creating up to 238 new jobs between now and 2021.

Speaking about the project, Sigmatex chief executive, Scott Tolson said: “The automotive industry is achieving huge advances in creating more efficient cars.

Jaguar Land Rover Evoque manufacture
Metal chassis being assembled at Land Rover plant in Merseyside.

“However there is also a significant potential to make cars lighter by the use of carbon fibre.

“This innovative project aims to develop ways to reduce the cost and upscale the incorporation of composites in cars, so that such materials can be used in a wider range of vehicles.

“With the support from OEMs this is a real opportunity to create a UK supply chain that is able and capable to meet the future demands of this important and growing industry.”

Sigmatex produces carbon fibre for a wide spectrum of different uses including supercars and aerospace design. The company has been pioneering the replacement of metals in favour of carbon fibre in a range of different fields and technologies.

AMSCI has been designed as a way of improving UK supply chains and make them more competitive on the global stage. The grant is awarded for a number of different uses including research and development, skills and training and capital investment to help make UK supply chains achieve world class standards.