The National Composites Centre (NCC), in conjunction with the University of Southampton, Solent LEP and partners, is investigating the need for a centre 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 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, amongst 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 including Southampton and regulators. The draft Solent LEP Growth Plan published in January 2014 highlighted as one of its key proposals the creation of such a centre in the Solent Region aimed largely at the marine and renewables sectors.

The Composites Leadership Forum (CLF) representing composites manufacturing companies, across the full spectrum of the UK’s manufacturing sectors are currently generating a new UK Composites Strategy. This will be published later this year and, amongst the findings emerging from this work, is a gap in UK capability to meet the potential demand for development of large composite structures from the marine, oil and gas, construction, renewable energy and rail sectors among others.

Peter Chivers, NCC Chief Executive said: “We are delighted to be undertaking the study into the need for a satellite NCC facility focussed on the development of very large structures. 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.”

He continued: “The NCC wants to work with industry, industry trade bodies, trade regulators and government. We will focus on whether there are specific issues around test facilities for large composite structures and knowledge transfer requirements for training, re-skilling and up-skilling people transferring from other disciplines to advanced composites applications. We’re looking for involvement from companies who wish to look at product and process development, optimisation, and validation. We need industry input to establish the demand and help specify the solution.”

The study is being conducted between May and July 2014.

Companies and individuals with an interest in large composites structures should contact Graham Harrison: consult@nccuk.com