Each month, The Engineer picks 10 of the most notable news stories from our Business Briefs archive. In July there were many bridges built (figuratively) in the construction sector, with a number of UK companies undertaking big projects. While the defence and power industries, as usual, saw many contracts signed, the manufacturing sector, too, engaged in some notable developments.
One of the biggest stories this month was UK multidisciplinary consultancy Capita Symonds being appointed by Airbus Operations to provide management and design services for its Aerospace Park project in Filton, Bristol. Under this contract, the consultancy will provide a range of real-estate services, including project management, architectural design, acoustics, landscape design, structural engineering and cost management.
The site, which adjoins the A38, will feature a campus-style development comprising a mix of new build and refurbished office accommodation, which will provide modern integrated facilities for 2,750 staff. The multi-million pound project includes a new build, low-rise 24,000m2 main office building to accommodate more than 2,300 staff, while the site’s existing listed Art Deco Pegasus House, constructed in 1936, will be refurbished to provide a 3,600m2 of modern offices for 450 staff.
In what became a busy month for the company, Capita Symonds was also appointed programme delivery partner for the $5bn (£3.1bn) Tatu City development in Kenya. This 1,000-hectare project comprises the construction of a new city within Greater Nairobi, which will become home to 62,000 residents and also contain retail, commercial, tourism, social and recreational facilities.
Capita Symonds will oversee all aspects of the programme, including stakeholder management; the pre-construction programme; project and design management; development of a programme management office; procurement; and overall programme management in the post-construction phase. The company’s initial role will be to ensure that all appropriate infrastructure facilities are constructed, including power, water services, roads, gas and IT.
Another UK company, Balfour Beatty, was awarded a £10.3m regional civil engineering contract by Doncaster Council, for the first phase of the White Rose Way improvement scheme — part of the Doncaster Southern Gateway project. The A6182 White Rose Way extends from Junction 3 of the M18, south of Doncaster, to the A18 Carr House Road.
As the main route to the south of Doncaster, the existing road has insufficient capacity for the current traffic flows. The first phase will see a new carriageway built between the Potteric Carr and Ladybank roundabouts, with a new highway bridge over the East Coast Main Line running parallel to the existing.
Two more UK-based construction companies, Bourne Steel and Billington Structures, decided this month to join forces. The resulting joint venture, named BS2, is targeted to support major steelwork projects throughout the UK. Drawing on more than 125 years of construction experience, the company aims to become a new option for clients in the high-rise market, as well as for those undertaking other major building projects.
Also of note was the official opening of Ceres Power’s new fuel-cell manufacturing facility in Horsham, Sussex, by business minister Mark Prisk MP. With this development, Ceres Power created more than 170 ‘green collar’ jobs at the new manufacturing facility in Horsham and technology centre in Crawley.
The new facility can be expanded to produce up to 30,000 fuel-cell CHP products per annum, which the company claims will create substantial additional skilled jobs in advanced manufacturing engineering and operations, as well as in the local supply chain. Ceres Power also claims there are now further opportunities to export significant volumes of the CHP product globally.
Renewable electric power was also at the centre of a large contract awarded to Finland-based Metso this month, under which the technology company will supply a 100MWe biomass boiler island and plant automation system to the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC) in Gainesville, Florida, US.
GREC has raised almost $500m (£312.8m) in construction financing, of which Metso’s delivery represents more than 25 per cent. The new power plant installation will supply the city-owned utility of Gainesville Regional Utilities with a firm source of renewable electric power under the terms of a 30-year power purchase agreement.
A smaller-scale, yet no less momentous achievement in the renewable energy sector was enjoyed by UK engineering company Mabey Bridge, which rolled out its first completed batch of wind turbine towers from its factory in Chepstow. These were delivered to wind farms in Yorkshire.
Mabey Bridge had invested £38m of its own money in the venture and at time of writing was the sole UK-based manufacturer of wind turbine towers.
Further home-grown achievement was celebrated in Worsley of Salford, Greater Manchester, when Wilkinson Star became the latest company to receive a North West Fund for Business loan via FW Capital, the company that manages the North West Fund’s £35m business loans fund.
The £200,000 loan provides extra working capital for the welding equipment stockist, with which to expand its product range, improve stock levels to meet latent demand and increase its sales revenues. Established more than 40 years ago, Wilkinson Star supplies more than 2,500 distributors from its purpose-built 55,000ft2 Worsley sales and distribution facility. In addition to its UK and export sales operations, Wilkinson Star also provides NVQ/VRQ-level training for apprentices and more experienced staff on the latest welding equipment.
Meanwhile, over in the US, well-established cable manufacturer Nexans announced plans to build a new facility for manufacturing underground extra high-voltage (EHV) cables. These EHV cables will operate at voltages greater than 200kV and have potential for extension to submarine HV activities.
Total investment in the plant, which is expected to begin operation in summer 2013, is expected to be approximately $80m (£50m).
Finally, we turn to defence contractor Raytheon, which was awarded $3m (£1.9m) funding to research ways of modelling the brain’s ability. In this project, the company aims to explore new methods of modelling the brain’s ability to understand large amounts of haphazard, partial information.
According to Raytheon, this research could have commercial and military benefits, such as helping the intelligence community to analyse fast-moving battlefield video, audio and text data quickly and accurately. Funding for the venture came from the US Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), part of the Integrated Cognitive-Neuroscience Architectures for Understanding Sensemaking (ICARUS) programme.