26 Nov 09. Business Secretary Lord Mandelson today announced new investment totalling £22m to further advance the development of composite materials. Composites are increasingly used for their lightweight, super strength properties in aeroplane wings and racing cars. He used a visit to Williams Formula One’s Oxfordshire to launch the investment and publish the Government’s new Composite Strategy.
The investment is made up of:
a. £16m for a new National Composites Centre in the Bristol area (Â£12m from central Government, £4m from the South West Regional Development Agency)
b. £5m for the winning firm’s to develop new composites manufacturing techniques (to be won via the Technology Strategy Board’s new ˜Grand Challenge™ competition, launched today) and £1m upfront funding to help develop challenge bids.
In the UK Composite Strategy document Lord Mandelson estimates that the high-value composites market is currently worth about £1 billion to the British economy. The UK offshore composite wind turbine blade and aerospace wing market alone could be worth £22 billion by 2020 “highlighting composites™ low carbon credentials. Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said: “Any modern economy is built on the ability to exploit the opportunities on offer by new and existing high value markets “such as composites. 2Our approach is now to back areas of the economy which have the biggest potential to create wealth and jobs and take advantage of the skills of our people.
“Today’s new strategy will help us to exploit the potential of composite materials which could help us lower carbon emissions, make cost savings by making things which last longer and boost our position globally making the UK the place to produce and develop composites.”
“Government has an irreplaceable role in ensuring that the right conditions are in place to support long term growth. This means investing in the country’s high-tech low carbon future including supporting and investing composites.”
At their simplest level composites are made from at least two materials that together produce a material with much improved properties than its constituent parts.
Lightweight yet super strength composites have been critical to recent British motor racing success and are also used in the manufacture of yachts, civil and military aircraft and will increasingly be used in offshore wind turbine blades.
The new Composites Strategy explains how Government plans to support British firms involved in manufacturing, utilising and exporting composites and composite technology, with the aim of maintaining the U’s global lead in this growth field. Up to now activity has been too sector specific which has limited the development of a cohesive composites industry and the transfer of technology to the manufacture of other products in other sectors which could be built using composites.
The growth in use of composites in the defence arena has rocketed in recent years propelled by the demand for better vehicle protection and new composite technologies. This demand has spurred the growth of such companies as GKN Aerospace, NP Aerospace AML (UK) Ltd, Ricardo and Jankel at the expense of existing metal bashers such as BAE Systems. Lockheed martin recently completed its first test of its exciting new TekShield armor at the Dolphin Gun Company Range at Hobson Industries. At the ends of the successful test Peter Hobson said , “To say I’m impressed is an understatement. Absolutely fascinating. You probably gathered from my demure that I was in a world of my own with my engineer’s head running riot.” On the first day of DSEi, September 8th, Lockheed Martin confirmed to BATTLESPACE that it had entered into discussions with Hobson Industries Ltd, the UK armouring and vehicle specialist, to potentially provide a TekShield licence to Hobson Industries for the development of TekShield on light tactical vehicles.
Having followed the development of TekShield, I can safely say