Brunel University has launched a £9m metal engineering centre which it hopes will help rejuvenate the UK's manufacturing sector.
The 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.
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 dependent 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 every year – without jeopardising efficient production of high-quality metallic materials.”
Fifteen 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 £4.6m to its development. The remaining investment from EPSRC will total £4.5m 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.”
Lord Mandelson, the then Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, announced news of the project in January. Making the announcement, Lord Mandelson said: “A highly skilled, innovative manufacturing sector is vital to Britain’s future economic growth.”