Applications for £15m civil nuclear funding to open soon

Posted on 29 Mar 2012 by Tim Brown
A test piece is drilled at the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre

The Government is to invest up to £15 million in research, development and knowledge transfer to stimulate innovation and support growth in the civil nuclear power sector.

Up to £12 million is on offer for business-led collaborative research and development projects. Up to £2 million will be invested in feasibility studies and a further £1 million will be available to support Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs), which will focus on the transfer of knowledge and skills into industry from academia.

The investment – through the Technology Strategy Board (www.innovateuk.org), the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC – www.decc.gov.uk), the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA – www.nda.gov.uk) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC – www.epsrc.ac.uk) – will fund feasibility projects, collaborative research and development and Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) that stimulate innovation and strengthen the UK supply chain.

The investment was announced by the Technology Strategy Board during its “Collaboration Nation: Nuclear R&D” event at the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Rotherham.

The event, which attracted just under 250 delegates from over 70 companies, followed the completion of a feasibility studies competition held by the TSB where companies are encouraged to look at how their capabilities can be applied to other industry sectors.

David Bott, director of innovation programmes at the Technology Strategy Board, said there was an “incredible interest” in both the competition and the results. “What we do with these feasibility studies competitions is give people the ability to think outside their normal area and then allow them to share their experiences. I was completely blown away by the scale of the capability and commitment to supporting the supply chain for the civil nuclear programme.”

Speaking after the event, construction law specialist Martin McKervey, partner at law firm Nabarro, praised the Nuclear AMRC and reiterated the immensity of supply chain opportunities for the UK manufacturing, engineering and construction sectors.

“This event at this truly world class facility was a very clear statement that the Nuclear AMRC is indeed the hub for the supply chain activities, in terms of knowledge transfer, understanding what is happening and when and, crucially as a platform for engagement with the likes of Edf Enery, Arreva and the other companies,” he said.

Commenting on the funding announcement, Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said that the funding will be aimed to not only expand the UK nuclear industry but also to provide rewarding careers and contribute towards more stable and balanced economic growth.

“This is an important and exciting time for the UK civil nuclear industry,” Mr Willetts said. “With potential for investment and innovation in the new-build and decommissioning markets, now is the right time to make sure that the UK is best placed to win orders and grow global market share.”

The competitions for collaborative R&D projects and feasibility studies will support innovative technologies to help UK business benefit from the resurgence in civil nuclear fission power generation and decommissioning.  Applicants will have to show how they will help strengthen the UK supply chain whilst contributing to the high-level, long-term challenge of developing cost-effective and safe solutions with high reliability and durability in the nuclear sector.

Applicants must also take account of regulation, health and safety and non-proliferation.

Dr Melanie Brownridge, NDA head of R&D said her organisation was “delighted” to be working with the Technology Strategy Board, DECC and EPSRC. “The NDA is committed to encouraging innovation as it progresses the safe decommissioning of the UK’s first generation of nuclear facilities [and] we see investment in R&D as a key element in this long-term mission,” she said.

The targeted call for KTPs is focused specifically on the exchange of knowledge and skills from academia into the nuclear supply chain and will be run in parallel with the other competitions. It will help businesses to improve their competitiveness, productivity and performance in the nuclear sector through the better use of the knowledge, technology and skills that are already available within the UK knowledge base.

The feasibility and collaborative R&D competitions open on July 2 and the deadline for registration is 29 August 2012.  The deadline for submitting feasibility applications and expressions of interest in collaborative R&D is 5 September 2012. The targeted call for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships also opens on 2 July 2012 and applications must be submitted by October 4, 2012.