Contributors are wanted to study the demand for a UK-based large composites structures center as part of a study for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The National Composites Centre (NCC), in conjunction with the University of Southampton, Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and partners, is investigating the need for a center to research and develop the use of advanced materials in the manufacture of large structures needed by sectors such as marine, oil and gas, and construction. The study follows a Solent Maritime Forum report, which cited a national need for a “large structures composites centre.”

The plan to foster growth in the marine and maritime industry in the Solent Region was commissioned by Michael Fallon MP following the decision by BAE Systems to end shipbuilding operations in Portsmouth. “Transforming Solent” was produced by Rear Admiral Rob Stevens CB and, among a number of recommendations, it suggested that the feasibility of establishing a national Large Structures Composite Centre in that region be investigated in partnership with local universities and regulators. The draft Solent LEP Growth Plan published in January 2014 highlighted as one of its key proposals the creation of such a center in the Solent Region aimed largely at the marine and renewables sectors.

“We very much welcome this study as, through detailed work with our industrial sector representatives, we’ve recognized that there is a UK gap in capability,” said Alison Starr, chair of the Composites Leadership Forum (CLF). “There are no facilities of a scale that could be utilized for research and technology development of large structures. Whilst the CLF work has identified potential customers of such a facility, further work needs to be done on identifying a comprehensive set of potential future users in order to size the UK demand, analyze the detailed capability they require, and to establish if the business model for such a centre is viable.”

“We are delighted to be undertaking the study into the need for a satellite NCC facility focused on the development of very large structures,” said Peter Chivers, chief executive, NCC. “Having had the CLF identify the capability gap, it is critical to the success of any large composite structures centre that there is early and substantial industrial engagement.”

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