GKN-led consortium wins £5 million composites challenge

GKN Aerospace led a group of 23 companies from the marine, automotive and aerospace sectors.

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A consortium of 23 companies led by GKN Aerospace (Isle of Wight, U.K.) has been announced as the winner of a competition for a £5 million prize awarded to a British business to develop innovative composite manufacturing techniques for high-performance, high-value products.

The winning proposal, "Inspirational Composite Technologies," came from a consortium led by GKN Aerospace — the National Composites Centre Consortium — which involves 23 companies and organisations from a range of sectors including marine, automotive and aerospace. Together with funding from these companies the winning proposal will result in a £10 million investment in advanced composites manufacturing in the U.K.

The three-stage Composites Grand Challenge was managed by the Technology Strategy Board on behalf of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which funded the competition through the Strategic Investment Fund. Launched by the Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, in November 2009 as part of the Government's Composites Strategy, the competition saw U.K. companies receive initial funding for feasibility studies, with the best then invited to develop and test their concept before the £5 million prize was awarded to the winning proposal.

Explaining the background to the competition, Dr John Morlidge, Lead Technologist for Advanced Materials at the Technology Strategy Board, said: "Part of the objective was to encourage business collaboration, aiming to create a new force for innovation in a rather fragmented sector. We are delighted to see a strong and diverse consortium winning the prize, involving companies from different sectors — some of them even competitors. These partners have found a way to work together to look at wider problems facing their industry around affordable, rapid and sustainable manufacturing."

"It is essential that UK industry capitalises on the unique properties of composites and seizes the opportunities from a growing global market for advanced composites products including aircraft wings, wind turbine blades, car components and many other applications. Most composites industries worldwide lack the technology to manufacture large structures cost effectively. This is the Grand Challenge - finding innovative approaches and sharing them across UK industry will deliver a major boost to the country's leadership in this area."