The three-stage 'Composites Grand Challenge' competition was managed by the UK’s Technology Strategy Board on behalf of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), which funded the competition through the Strategic Investment Fund.

Launched in November 2009 as part of the UK government’s Composites Strategy, the competition saw UK 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.

The winning proposal, Inspirational Composite Technologies, came from a consortium led by GKN Aerospace. The National Composites Centre Consortium 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 UK.

The winning consortium now has a year to work on the Grand Challenge, demonstrate advances and begin to commercially exploit the development.

”Part of the objective was to encourage business collaboration, aiming to create a new force for innovation in a rather fragmented sector,” explains Dr John Morlidge, Lead Technologist for Advanced Materials at the Technology Strategy Board. “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,” he added. “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.”