The Composites Leadership Forum has been created to deliver the next stage of the National Composites Strategy. Its inaugural meeting was held on October 10.
The National Composites Strategy, commissioned by Lord Mandelson and published in 2009, set out how the UK should build on the foundations of a successful composites sector and contribute to economic growth in a global market for these materials that is growing.
Composite materials – strong fibres laid down between layers of resin – are found in commercial and military aerospace, automotive, yacht building, Formula One, wind turbines, sports equipment and a variety of other structures.
Since the Strategy was published, the National Composites Centre (NCC) in Bristol was opened in 2011 and is one of seven centres that form the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.
The NCC provides advanced R&D and manufacturing capabilities – including a rapid composite lay-up machine, computer simulation and autoclaves – to all UK companies who join the centre, and to some who have an association.
A Technology Strategy Board-funded Composites Grand Challenge is encouraging the development of the UK supply chain and membership of Composites UK, the Industry Trade Association, has doubled since the launch.
The Composite Skills Alliance is generating an improved network for the delivery of new skills to meet the needs of changing technologies and supply chains. The Technology Strategy Board recently met with Semta and Warwick Manufacturing Group to discuss how composite engineering skills can be progressed. Further growth now requires leadership and continued strategic direction, the NCC says.
What will the Composites Leadership Forum do?
It will work with stakeholders, supported by the Government, to map and define UK composites capability and future growth potential. It will provide strategic direction and assist UK industry to meet expanding demand from a wide range of sectors. Representatives from automotive, aerospace, construction, motorsport, education and skills sectors were present at the meeting, with others, including rail, renewables and marine expected to join, SMEs are represented by Composites UK.
The forum will identify opportunities and challenges for the greater use of composite materials and will produce a joint action plan to address current and future needs in technology, skills, supply chain development and infrastructure to ensure the UK remains competitive.