The Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) has launched an £8.2m Composites Certification and Evaluation Centre to support companies in the region’s aerospace supply chain.
Mark Hughes, executive director of economic development at the NWDA, sees the centre as a priority growth sector for the north-west economy, which currently has more than 800 aerospace companies contributing a total of £7bn a year.
Hughes said: ‘This project, which supports the objectives of the Northwest Science Strategy, will assist aerospace supply chain companies in developing new products and speed up the testing and evaluation process, placing them in a stronger position to win new business.’
As well as supporting regional economy, the National Composites Network believes that the facility will fill a gap in the UK’s infrastructure to provide expertise and evaluation techniques from companies who are developing new composite products and manufacturing processes.
A study of the north-west’s capabilities and opportunities in composites, compiled by the Northwest Aerospace Alliance in 2006, revealed that a lack of testing and evaluation support for aerospace companies in the region led to a bottleneck in the invention of new composite products and the successful winning of orders.
The new centre is expected to address this by providing suppliers with an area to display the quality of their products in order to help them secure orders. The facility will also provide designing data, repair strategies and ‘rules’ to facilitate the development of new products.
Prof Paul Hogg, executive director of the Northwest Composites Centre, said: ‘The creation of the Composites Certification and Evaluation facility at Manchester University provides a unique combination of world-class test and evaluation facilities with the intellectual support of a world-class university research base.
‘Local companies will now be able to enjoy an unrivalled service generating basic data and advice on composite materials that will support design, materials selection, manufacturing and repair strategies and aerospace qualification. This will in turn allow companies to be creative in their use and selection of composites, securing their position in an increasingly competitive global industry on the basis of quality and innovation.’