Battling a large trade deficit and competing in a turbulent global environment, the UK needs a balanced economy that makes and exports more effectively, and that successfully turns its world-class inventions and ideas into tangible commercial success. The High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult helps address these issues. Its seven technology and innovation centres across the country are funded by private sector, BIS and Innovate UK and work with businesses of all sizes, to bridge the gap in, and accelerate the activity between, technological concept and commercialisation.
Businesses with a functioning process, material or product face the difficult journey to scale up their innovation to full industrial exploitation. This is very risky, often involving large investments in capital infrastructure and in human resource, without any guarantee of success. Working with the HVM Catapult enables companies to gain access to world-class expertise and the latest industrial scale equipment significantly reducing the development risk. This allows them to defer their own investment decisions until it’s been established that the innovation can be exploited on a commercial scale.
Recent figures speak for themselves: after merely four years of operations, the HVM Catapult has already helped thousands of companies, and has generated £15 of net benefits to the UK economy with every £1 of government core funding it received.
Dick Elsy, CEO of the HVM Catapult, said: “This is a great example of government showing how it backs high-end manufacturing in this country, and working with industry
to build long-term value for the UK.”
One HVM Catapult facility, the National Composites Centre (NCC) in Bristol, works with businesses to exploit innovation in the use of advanced materials in composites manufacture and product design. Its team works with companies to explore new fabrication techniques, especially automation of composites manufacturing processes, materials manufacturing process simulation, process optimisation, and productivity improvement. The NCC has links to world-class composites universities, software developers and material and tooling suppliers, enabling provision of holistic solutions
to complex challenges.
Effective use of composites materials can reduce weight while maintaining structural integrity and providing optimisation of design. Using carbon, glass and other polymer reinforced fibre materials can significantly reduce maintenance costs by improving corrosion and fatigue resistance.
The NCC is collaborating in the development of composites manufacturing processes to deliver faster cycle times and improved product quality at lower processing costs, initially for the automotive supply chain but with opportunities in multiple sectors.
A key target is to achieve a product every two to four minutes for mass volume applications. The NCC will work with companies to develop and optimise composites manufacturing technologies including high-pressure resin transfer moulding and rapid processing of carbon-fibre reinforced thermoplastics.