The week ahead: space, trains, and building your business

News editor

One of our non-editorial colleagues fully embraces technological innovation, and as an F1 fan she’s always forthright in her opinions on rule changes in the racing world.

She is, in fact, the first person to track down whenever some F1-related publicity catches our collective editorial eye.

Enthusiasm for fast moving objects ceases, however, whenever they leave the Earth’s outer atmosphere and head into space.

To put it bluntly, she’s doesn’t seem overly convinced that it’s a good idea to have landed astronauts on the moon, let alone attempt to mine asteroids for minerals, or try to set up a human colony on Mars.

In fairness, these anti-interplanetary protestations are usually delivered tongue-in-cheek, knowing full well that The Engineer’s extra-terrestrial enthusiasts will rapidly draw up a list of advances that could only have come about through space exploration.

The UK’s space industry enjoys around six per cent of the global market share and plans are afoot to take this figure to 10 per cent by 2030.

To make this happen, government is this week publishing its response to November 2013’s Space Growth Action Plan, and is also launching its National Space Security Policy.

The action plan identified five areas in which the UK could further its progress into the multi-billion pound space technology market, and the government will use the event on April 30 to issue their reaction to the recommendations.

Those of you fully conversant with The Engineer’s website will have spotted a new event listing urging participation in the European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC).

ESNC is looking for anyone with an idea – be it an app, software platform or wholly new piece of technology - that utilises satellite navigation technology.

Individuals, teams or companies with groundbreaking ideas in applying positioning, navigation or timing technology, are encouraged to enter and accelerate their ideas into successful businesses.

Submissions are now being invited for the UK leg of the European competition, with successful entrants benefiting from business mentoring with guidance in protecting Intellectual Property, refining a business model, and maximising investor appeal.

The organisers add: ‘The competition is designed to help identify and promote new ideas so your product or service does not have to be on-sale to be eligible, nor do you need a detailed business plan to enter.’

Visit to submit an entry.

Future rail engineers may find themselves having to identify materials that encompass strength and durability when considering the best fit for new vehicle developments.

Those materials will then be required repeatedly absorb energy in a predictable and repeatable way in order to satisfy rail crash worthiness standards, which is an area being focussed on at IMechE today.

The organisation is hosting Materials for modern rail vehicle construction at its Birdcage Walk offices, with NewRail’s Prof Mark Robinson and Doctor George Kotsikos delivering a lecture that looks at the use of lightweight materials such as fibre reinforced polymer composites and aluminium, design processes, and the use of hybrid structures in rail vehicle design.

Later this week the department of business, innovation and skills closes its consultation on the best location for the main site of a new high-speed rail college.

Maybe they’ll consider Huddersfield, whose university is home to Institute of Railway Research (IRR), which will soon house the £20m Centre for Innovation in Rail.

The head of IRR is Prof Simon Iwnicki, who is set to chair the railway division of IMechE from June and his mission is to narrow the skills gap.

IMechE is already playing a proactive role in attracting new talent - the Railway Challenge for students to design and build a small-scale locomotive being one of their initiatives.

Huddersfield University itself is hosting an event for year 11-12 school pupils in July this year that aims to introduce new rail technologies to them. The University says the event, organised with the Smallpeice Trust, includes a team competition to design and build railway vehicles and to see which performs best on the test track that has been laid at the University.

‘There is a tremendous skills shortage and we at the IMechE need to try to address that,’ said Prof Iwnicki.

As a brief aside it was interesting to read last week - in the age of HS2, bullet trains, and huge investment in rail infrastructure - that 21 ton steel frames have been fabricated for a new steam locomotive at Tata Steel’s Scunthorpe facility.

The new 170-ton locomotive is Gresley P2 Class No. 2007 Prince of Wales and the rolling of the frames bring the locomotive into existence.

Designed by Sir Nigel Gresley, who brought us the Flying Scotsman and Mallard, the P2 Class 2-8-2 were the most powerful passenger steam locomotives to operate in the UK. The designs, however, were not fully developed and they were rebuilt in 1944 and scrapped by 1961.

This project is building the seventh member of this class over seven years at an estimated cost of £5m and will demonstrate how the design can be realised through computer design and modelling techniques,

Click here to make a contribution to the project.

Finally, the Manufacturing Advisory Service has been in touch to highlight a free supply chain conference taking place in Shropshire on Wednesday.

Aimed at SMEs, the event is geared toward making the most out of opportunities in automotive, aerospace and the offshore wind sectors.

The organisers say: ‘Manufacturers from across the West Midlands are being urged to attend the free event on April 30th, which will detail how companies can prepare themselves to take advantage of billions of pounds worth of new contracts to supply components into next generation vehicles, aircraft, turbines and ancillary equipment.

‘Delegates will get to hear from a host of experts, including MAS’ Lorraine Holmes, the Midlands Aerospace Alliance’s Dr Andrew Mair and two keynote speakers from a leading car manufacturer and aerospace prime.

‘There will also be an introduction to the recently launched GROW:OffshoreWind initiative, which is designed to provide manufacturers with access to technical advice, innovation support, supplier matching and grants of up to £500,000.’