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Identifying opportunities for the chemical-using industries within composite materials

Posted on 23/10/2017

KTN and the CGP have published a new report on accelerating innovations for chemistry in composites.

By Dr Rachael Rowlands-Jones, Knowledge Transfer Manager, Formulation

Composite materials combine two or more constituent materials, with differing physical or chemical properties, to produce a new material with its own distinct properties. Examples of composites include concrete, fibreglass and polyester.

The Composites Leadership Forum (CLF) is widely regarded as the voice of the UK composites industry. It was established with Government support as one of the recommendations of the UK Composites Strategy 2009, and is led by industry. Last year the CLF launched the 2016 UK Composites Strategy, representing an ongoing collaboration between Government and the composites industry to ensure that funding and support is available to aid growth in the UK composites industries.

“The 2016 UK Composites strategy sets out the opportunity to capture a significant share of the substantial future global market for the application of composite materials. Considerable growth in the use of this material is forecast across existing composite-using sectors such as Aerospace and Defence, through rapid growth areas such as Automotive and Renewables and into the advancing user-sectors of Oil and Gas, Rail and large-scale Construction applications. The UK needs to invest in accelerating technologies, developing supply chains and growing a skilled workforce to deliver winning solutions that will capture these opportunities.”

What does this mean for the Chemical-using sector?

The chemicals sector is at the very foundation of the UK’s manufacturing industries. Every direct job in the chemicals sector necessitates at least 3 jobs in affiliated services & supply chains and typically 7 jobs in downstream industries.

A strong, competitive chemical industry underpins all great manufacturing nations in the developed world. Chemicals and materials are the essential components upon which manufacturing is built (e.g. lightweight polymers, medicines, clean drinking water, food), generating significant export revenues and creating high-value & highly skilled employment.

With the potential UK composite market product sales predicted to be worth £12.5bn by 2030, it is currently estimated that between £7.5bn and £9bn of the market value could be associated with composite materials alone. Clearly there is a significant opportunity for the chemical sector, but a coordinated approach is needed to ensure these opportunities result in, “ a robust and reliable end-to-end supply chain, which is firmly anchored in the UK, for the delivery of cost-effective composite parts to meet the light-weighting needs of multiple OEMs in many market sectors.”

The chemical industry is the innovation and growth driver for the economy, so a cohesive approach is needed to support the UK’s established growth industries including aerospace, automotive, agri-tech and the life sciences. The same approach applies to composites – a car without chemistry simply would not look the same.

Accelerating Innovations for Chemistry in Composites

The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) held a workshop to identify opportunities for the chemical-using industries within composite materials, and to explore the developing CLF-led proposal for a National Composite Materials Centre (NCMC). The industry consultation aspect of the NCMC proposal will soon close, so any interested parties – particularly those willing to commit financial support – should contact contact Dr Rachael Rowlands-Jones before the end October 2017.

KTN has published the findings of the above workshop on behalf of the Chemistry Growth Partnership (CGP) in a report “Accelerating Innovations for Chemistry in Composites”. The report details the outcomes of work by the KTN in partnership with the CGP to explore how the chemical sector can help the composites industry in the UK develop into a more secure future, with a particular focus on supporting the chemical supply chain. It is important that we bring out the benefits of accelerated innovation both to the materials chemistry companies and to the OEM’s/downstream users.

This report:

  • Captures the industry perspective
  • Addresses cross-sector challenges and opportunities for enhanced industry collaboration
  • Identifies potential synergies between CGP strategy and the 2016 UK Composite Strategy
  • Highlights gaps in current capability which the chemical industry would see value in addressing through NCMC collaborative projects

To discuss this work further and how it relates to the proposal for a National Composite Materials Centre contact Dr Rachael Rowlands-Jones ( Knowledge Transfer Manager, Formulation).