Government funding has helped unlock plans to put the Midlands on a unique footing as a global centre for advanced technical ceramics.
Government finance, provided through UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Strength in Places Fund, has been successfully secured by the Midlands Industrial Ceramics Group (MICG), which draws on industry and academia to make the region a magnet for international investment.
A key element of the project will be the delivery of improvements to manufacturing processes, making advanced ceramics more energy-efficient, faster and cheaper – boosting growth and productivity across the supply chain and benefitting customers across a wide range of industry sectors.
According to the group, this will ultimately contribute towards growth of 4,200 jobs in the region by 2030, and provide “an integrated platform of digitally intuitive manufacturing”.
Membership of the MICG comprises organisations including: Rolls-Royce, JCB, Morgan Advanced Materials and Lucideon, as well as the universities of Birmingham, Leicester and Loughborough.
Chairman of the Midlands Engine, Sir John Peace commented: “The Midlands has always been a global leader in ceramic design, cutting-edge product development with global research organisations, and innovative manufacturing technology.
“Advanced ceramics are critical to increase the competitiveness of key high-value advanced manufacturing industries in the region, and vital to the nation’s economic recovery and self-sufficiency.
“Through the collaboration of the MICG partners, the researcher, manufacturer and end-user will be connected, enabling effective problem-solving, ‘de-risking’ of innovation and faster commercialisation – leading to regional and national growth.”
An Advanced Ceramics Campus in North Staffordshire is also proposed, to unify the knowledge and strengths of academia and industry for the benefit of the Midlands region and the wider UK stakeholders.
Alan Newby, Director, Aerospace Technology & Future Programmes, Rolls-Royce, believes the MICG will have a significant impact on the Midlands ceramic economy.
He said: “We want to bring innovation to the marketplace quickly and the MICG has the potential to do that. We can build on the strength of the universities, alongside companies like Morgan Advanced Materials and Lucideon, to concentrate that knowledge locally and nationally, as well as around the world.
“We can see that this group will provide a platform for knowledge-sharing to bring the development of concepts to commercialisation, under a fast-track process.”
Professor Bala Vaidhyanathan of Loughborough University said that the project will provide the Midlands advanced ceramics sector with “a very strong competitive advantage” and will offer “state-of-the-art training to the next generation skilled workforce”.