Research partnerships and collaborations
Bristol Composites Institute is at the heart of composites research regionally, nationally and internationally.
A number of strategic partnerships have been set up with industry and government funding agencies to develop and exploit this research. The Institute also links to centres of excellence across the University of Bristol in specific areas.
Rolls-Royce Composites UTC
The Composites UTC research activity links into a worldwide university network providing advanced technology to Rolls-Royce. As the use of composites in aerospace components and power systems increases, so a better understanding of physical behaviour and more advanced design and manufacturing methods is required. The UTC aims to provide a validated analysis capability for the mechanical response of composites that can be used in the design of these components.
The Composites UTC comprises a core team of researchers and support staff and around 20 affiliated PhD students and EngD research engineers. Professor Stephen Hallett is the Director of the UTC, Professor Michael Wisnom is the Technical Fellow and Dr Luiz Kawashita is the UTC lecturer.
National Composites Centre
The National Composites Centre was opened in 2011 by the University of Bristol and the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) in partnership with industry, with £12m of funding from central Government and £4m from SWRDA. With £28m of additional central Government funding, Phase II of the NCC was completed in 2014.
It is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and aims to be an independent, open-access national centre that delivers world-class innovation in the design and rapid manufacture of composites and facilitates their widespread industrial exploitation.The NCC forms an internationally leading hub, linking activities across all sectors of the UK in research, education and training, technology transfer and incubation of new enterprises.
Professor Ole Thomsen holds a joint post between Bristol Composites Institute and the NCC where he is the NCC Chair in Composites Design and Manufacturing.
Professor Thomsen leads composites manufacturing and design research activities at Bristol Composites Institute, the collaboration between the University and the National Composites Centre and with the EPSRC Future Composites Manufacturing Research Hub (CIMCOMP).
EPSRC Future Composites Manufacturing Research Hub
The Future Composites Manufacturing Research Hub is an EPSRC-funded collaboration with the University of Nottingham which received an EPSRC grant of £10,000,000 in December 2016.
The Future Composites Manufacturing Hub will increase the potential of manufacturing composite materials within the UK by revolutionising performance and expanding the industry into new markets. Developing the underlying processing science and technology over a seven-year period, the Hub will establish the growth potential of the composites sector by doubling its production capability every two years.
The collaboration will create a pipeline of next-generation technologies for future industrial needs; provide training for the next generation of engineers, and build national and international communities in the design and manufacture of high-performance composites.
The academic partners are the University of Nottingham, University of Bristol, The University of Manchester, Imperial College London, University of Southampton, Cranfield University.
Bristol Composites Institute investigators in the Future Composites Manufacturing Hub are Professor Kevin Potter, Professor Ivana Partridge and Dr Carwyn Ward.
EPSRC Industrial Doctorate Centre in Composites Manufacture
The Industrial Doctorate Centre (IDC) in Composites Manufacture is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and represents an integral activity of the Future Composites Manufacturing Research Hub. The IDC runs a four-year Engineering Doctorate (EngD) programme in Composites Manufacture, which integrates an industry-based research project with research training in technical subjects, as well as business skills and transferable skills training.
It aims to address the urgent and growing need in the UK polymer composites manufacturing sector for elite Research Engineers equipped with the necessary advanced technical and leadership skills required for effective adoption of new knowledge and technologies in composites manufacture.
The IDC's theme area is the manufacturing of engineered composites structures, specifically those which comprise continuous high-performance fibres held together with a polymeric matrix. The relevant industry areas include aerospace, automotive, marine, wind energy and construction. Its combined research portfolio presents a new knowledge resource on composites manufacturing, covering direct manufacturing technology - processes and operations, modelling and simulation, design for manufacture and design for recycling.
The IDC is run as a collaboration between the Universities of Bristol (lead university), Cranfield, Manchester and Nottingham. EngD students are based with their sponsor company and benefit from the use of cutting-edge equipment and expertise at the universities and at the National Composites Centre (NCC) in Bristol, which provides a world-class facility to bridge the gap between research and industrial application.
Interface Analysis Centre
The Interface Analysis Centre in the University of Bristol's Science Faculty provides a wide range of specialist techniques for the analysis of interfaces in solid-state materials, including Auger Electron Spectroscopy, Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometry, X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy, Focused Ion Beam Milling, Scanning Electron Microscopy and Laser Raman Spectroscopy.
UK Research Centre in NDE
Non-Destructive Evaluation (NDE) employs sensor and imaging technology to assess the condition of components, plant and engineering structures of all kinds during manufacture and in-service. The UK Research Centre in NDE (RCNDE) is a collaboration between 6 universities led by Imperial College and 16 large full member companies who are end-users of the technology, with over 30 associate members largely drawn from the technology supply chain.
The centre undertakes adventurous research in this technology area which is key to the safe and sustainable future of a broad cross-section of UK industry including high-value manufacturing, aerospace, power generation, defence and oil & gas. The centre has now successfully established the UK as a world leader in multi-disciplinary Non-Destructive Evaluation (NDE) research and delivered a wide range of new technology, expertise and people into an area that had been fragmented for some decades.
RCNDE has attracted over £7.5M of industry funding and generated a pipeline of more than 50 exploitable NDE outputs at different stages of development. The industrial members have developed a cross-sector vision for the radical new approaches to NDE that will be needed to provide the inspection and qualification capabilities to meet their future business ambitions over the next 20 years and beyond.
The Centre is supported by EPSRC until 2020 to enable it to meet these new long term research challenges, building on the successful track record of the centre to date. The Centre will include a wide portfolio of activities from feasibility studies and longer term, higher risk adventurous research, through medium-term application research and development to short term practical projects and technology transfer activities with end-users and the supply chain.
Opportunities for industry to engage with student research projects
Bristol Composites Institute is involved in various student research programmes within the University of Bristol and other universities in the UK. Industry can engage directly with both undergraduate and postgraduate students through a series of research projects within these programmes.
All 3rd-year Aerospace Engineering students conduct an Individual eXploratory research Project (IXP) of their choice.
In their 4th year, the students carry out a more in-depth piece of research or Final Year Project (FYP) which can be an extension of their IXP.
Industrial partners can propose a research project for inclusion in the project list. The scope of the research is defined through discussion once a student has selected their research topic.
There are many opportunities for industrial partners to work with postgraduate students, from contributing to short-term research projects to collaborating on long-term PhD or EngD projects:
Postgraduate students on the Advanced Composites MSc and Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) PhD programmes undertake a six or nine-month intensive taught course, before embarking on a three-month research project of their own choosing, respectively. The CDT PhD students can choose either to continue their project as a PhD or select a new project.
The postgraduate students have a good level of knowledge and skills relating to composite mechanics and experimentation. Involvement in their research project is an excellent opportunity for the industry to work with high-quality postgraduate students. Examples of current and past research projects can be viewed on the CDT Research Projects webpage.
For industrial partners looking for more industry-led research, the University hosts an Industrial Doctorate Centre (IDC) in Composites Manufacture. EngD students, or EngD Research Engineers, undertake a four-year, industry-led research project, based with the sponsor company addressing the sponsor’s commercial research priorities. Specialist training ensures that EngD Research Engineers bring considerable technical knowledge and capability to their project.
Proposing a project
For Undergraduate, MSc and CDT PhD short-term projects, no industrial funding is required. However, CDT PhD projects and the EngD programme require financial contributions from the industrial partner. Please refer to the Summary of engagement opportunities (PDF, 107kB) for further information and contact details.