Is the manufacturing sector ready to implement the government’s Ten Point Plan? Rosa Wilkinson highlights the High Value Manufacturing Catapult's support to industry as it takes on a vital challenge.
The launch of the new Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution and the significant hike in the target for UK emissions reductions announced before Christmas make this government’s strong commitment to protecting our environment very clear.
But what’s also clear is that words alone won’t be enough to turn the dial. If we are serious about cleaning up our planet and forcing global warming into remission, a radical transformation is needed. We need to transform how we generate energy; the products we buy; the way we make them; the way we use them and what happens at the end of their useful life. These necessary changes are set to affect almost every aspect of our lives.
“If we are serious about cleaning up our planet and forcing global warming into remission, a radical transformation is needed. We need to transform how we generate energy; the products we buy; the way we make them; the way we use them and what happens at the end of their useful life”
It’s a challenge that’s making all of us think. December’s National Manufacturing Debate at Cranfield asked whether British manufacturing was ready to step up to the decarbonisation plate.
I’m optimistic that our manufacturers have both the potential and the will to rise to the challenge. Many are already adapting both their own operations and the products they deliver, but we know that change isn’t always easy. That’s why my organisation, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, has been putting its shoulder to the wheel to support our manufacturers as they look to seize the opportunities created by a Green Industrial Revolution.
Advancing offshore wind
The UK already generates more electricity from offshore wind than any other country, but the government’s 10 point plan sets the ambition to use innovation to quadruple our offshore wind capacity to generate more power than all our homes use today.
Composite aerospace component testing at the National Composites Centre
The HVM Catapult is working closely with the offshore wind community to deliver on that ambition with projects to improve turbine performance, advance turbine blade technology and strengthen the offshore wind supply chain.
HVM Catapult Centres have been developing a new, lighter composite turbine blade that can generate more energy from a turbine. A lighter composite blade allows for 10% more length which, in turn, generates over 9% more energy from the same wind turbine. The new, partly recyclable blades cost 30% less to manufacture than conventional blades and don’t require additional finishing, saving time and energy in manufacture and lowering the cost.
Driving the growth of low carbon hydrogen
The 10 point plan highlights hydrogen – the lightest, simplest and most abundant chemical element in the universe – as a potential clean source of fuel and energy. The plan’s aim is for the UK to develop five gigawatts of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030. That’s a huge challenge from a standing start.
Working with colleagues across the network, the HVM Catapult is driving an exciting initiative to deliver a connected innovation roadmap for the hydrogen economy and the key enabling technologies that will put the UK at the cutting edge of developments.
Three of the points in the plan – Accelerating the Shift to Zero Emission Vehicles, Jet Zero and Green Ships, and Green Public Transport, Cycling and Walking – focus on how we get about. HVM Catapult is active across this space with projects ranging from light-weighting aeroplanes so that they use less fuel to helping the British bicycle manufacturer Pashley win a new contract to supply the London Cycle Hire scheme bicycle.
DELIVER-E technology demonstrator vehicle, developed at the HVM Catapult’s WMG Centre
Perhaps we’re best known for our role at the centre of work to drive improvements in the battery technologies key to electric vehicles (EVs). We were key to the creation of the Faraday Battery Institute and many of our projects are geared to improving battery performance.
We’re also working to make sure that UK manufacturers with an interest in supplying this growing market get the support they need. Our Ready for Electrification programme at WMG offers practical and technical support to businesses and connects the whole supply chain from SME to OEM. It will encourage the development of a resilient UK supply base for the current and future EV market and help UK manufacturers to understand the challenges and get ready for potentially global opportunities.
Of course, while electric vehicles offer huge potential for decarbonising transport and improving air quality, we also need to think about what happens at the end of their useful life. There are opportunities there for UK businesses. Batteries in particular contain materials which are both costly to extract and potentially hazardous to the environment, so there’s a huge potential market for reusing those materials where possible.
Our WMG team is looking to see how the UK might secure its share of that market and working alongside industry partners to make sure that where a battery ends its first life with remaining capacity it can be used for ‘second life’ applications, such as static energy storage.
Printed sensors to reduce cost and increase efficiency of electric vehicle batteries
The HVM Catapult’s CPI Centre is involved in a collaborative project which aims to develop novel printed sensors for electric vehicle battery current density imaging. Using CPI’s state-of-the-art electronics capability and expertise in developing novel print techniques, the sensors could increase battery life and reduce charging times helping to build consumer confidence and uptake of EVs.
Delivering new and advanced nuclear power
As demand for electricity in sectors like heat and transport rises, we all need a reliable source of low carbon electricity. Nuclear power gives us that, but it has to be affordable and deliverable.
Large-scale production in action at the Nuclear AMRC, part of the HVM Catapult
Our Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre just outside Sheffield is working with companies and researchers to make sure that it is, helping to develop the new generation of small modular reactors and advanced modular reactors which could be delivering electricity to the grid by the early 2030s and to make sure that businesses in the UK nuclear supply chain are ready to deliver.
Driving down the cost of nuclear
Reactor pressure vessels in the nuclear industry are time consuming to make given the need to move parts between different machines for welding, machining, inspection and other operations. The HVM Catapult’s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre’s ‘Simple Project’ is designing a single-platform process that could achieve cost and time savings of at least 50% for a range of large complex fabrications, driving down the costs associated with nuclear power.
Action to make our buildings more energy efficient and move away from fossil fuel boilers while keeping bills low sits at the heart of the 10 point plan.
Businesses need cost-effective solutions to eliminate their reliance on gas and oil for heating and cooling. WMG supported Arriba Technologies Ltd to develop a solar-powered heat pump product for large buildings including hospitals, factories, schools and supermarkets. Early readings from the heat-pump’s first large-scale installation at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge suggest energy efficiency savings of up to 80%. By using renewable sources and less energy the heat-pump cuts costs while reducing emissions to zero.
Arriba Technologies Ltd’s solar-powered heat pump product for large buildings, developed with the support of the HVM Catapult’s WMG Centre
That’s great, but we also need to think about how we can make our homes more sustainable. Here again, the HVM Catapult has been active. Our AMRC Centre in Sheffield has been working with HLM Architects to develop the ‘ForEva’ home concept, a universal Modern Methods of Construction platform that enables flexible, affordable and sustainable ‘forever’ homes that are designed to be fit for life, carbon neutral and facilitate a circular economy.
The reality is that every one of us has a part to play in driving down our carbon emissions and protecting our fragile environment.
Our manufacturers – so often portrayed as the problem children of the UK economy – are not only looking hard at how they can change, they are also stepping forward to develop and deliver the things we need to secure a net zero future while maintaining our quality of life. This article gives a flavour of the many projects we’re working on to help firms across the country. For us emissions is a course of passion and of pride.
More information www.hvm.catapult.org.uk