The £22 million investment consists of:

  • £16 million for a new National Composites Centre in the Bristol area (£12 million from central government and £4 million from the South West Regional Development Agency); and
  • £5 million for companies to develop new composites manufacturing techniques (to be won via the Technology Strategy Board’s new Grand Challenge competition) and £1 million upfront funding to help develop challenge bids.

The National Composites Centre will work across all sectors with an interest in composites, with backing from industry. It will provide manufacturing facilities on an industrial scale, capable of building prototypes to validate design concepts and rapid manufacturing process.

The UK Composites Strategy document introduced today by Business Secretary Lord Mandelson estimates that the composites market is currently worth about £1 billion to the British economy. The UK offshore composite wind turbine blade and aerospace wing market alone could be worth £22 billion by 2020.

“Any modern economy is built on the ability to exploit the opportunities on offer by new and existing high value markets – such as composites,” said Mandelson. “Our approach is now to back areas of the economy which have the biggest potential to create wealth and jobs and take advantage of the skills of our people.

“Today’s new strategy will help us to exploit the potential of composite materials which could help us lower carbon emissions, make cost savings by making things which last longer and boost our position globally making the UK the place to produce and develop composites.”

“Government has an irreplaceable role in ensuring that the right conditions are in place to support long term growth. This means investing in the country’s high-tech low carbon future including supporting and investing composites.”

The new Composites Strategy explains how government plans to support British firms involved in manufacturing, utilising and exporting composites and composite technology, with the aim of maintaining the UK’s global lead in this field. Up to now activity has been too sector specific which has limited the development of a cohesive composites industry and the transfer of technology to the manufacture of other products in other sectors which could be built using composites.

The government’s New Industry, New Jobs policy paper, published in April 2009, aims to support areas of the economy which have the potential to see significant growth and make best use of UK talents and expertise. The Composites Strategy is one part of this broader strategy.