During a visit to Williams Formula One’s Oxfordshire, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson yesterday launched the publication of the “UK Composite Strategy” and announced a new £22m investment to further advance the development of “composite” materials.
The strategy sets out how Government will support the composites industry by building on previous measures to support this industry. A co-ordinated approach bringing together Government, the regions, industry, research institutes and academia will provide the focus needed to take full advantage of the commercial opportunities.
Composites are made from at least two materials that together produce a material with much improved properties than its constituent parts.
Increasingly used for their lightweight, super strength properties, they have been critical to recent British motor racing success and are also used in the manufacture of yachts, civil and military aircraft and will be used in offshore wind turbine blades.
The document estimates that the high-value composites market is currently worth about £1bn to the British economy. The UK offshore composite wind turbine blade and aerospace wing market alone could be worth £22bn by 2020 – highlighting composites’ low carbon credentials.
Commenting on the strategy, Business Secretary Lord Mandelson was reported as saying: “Any modern economy is built on the ability to exploit the opportunities on offer by new and existing high value markets – such as composites.
“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”.
The announced investment include:
– £16m for a new National Composites Centre in the Bristol area (£12m from central Government, £4m from the South West Regional Development Agency). The centre will work across all sectors with an interest in composites, with backing from industry. It will provide manufacturing facilities on an industrial scale, capable of building prototypes to validate design concepts and rapid manufacturing process.
– £5m for a new Technology Strategy Board’s “Grand Challenge” competition to develop new composites manufacturing techniques;
– £1m upfront funding to help develop challenge bids.