Brunel University has been awarded £15 million of funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) as part of a new £60 million initiative to establish a National Research Centre for Structural Integrity.
The award represents the largest single award for research that Brunel has ever received.
The balance of funding, £45 million, will come from industry. Brunel’s lead co-partner for the new Centre, which will be based in Cambridge, is the technology engineering research and consultancy organisation TWI. Other partners will include major companies from the rail, marine, aerospace and energy sectors as well as University College London, the University of Cambridge and the University of Manchester.
Once established, the purpose-built National Centre will house more than 100 postgraduate taught and research students and more than 50 staff. It will provide the most up-to-date facilities for engineering and materials research in the UK.
Brunel University Vice-Chancellor Professor Julia Buckingham welcomed the news. “I am delighted that funding has been secured to enable Brunel University to build upon its well-established partnership with TWI to develop a National Research Centre to support interdisciplinary research in this important area,” she said.
Teresa Waller, Director of Research Support and Development at Brunel and co-ordinator of the successful proposal to HEFCE, added: “This Centre, one of only seven new bids to be awarded funding, will build a national research capability which will support economic growth by carrying out application-led research programmes with TWI and industry partners. It will also provide exciting postgraduate training opportunities to address the UK’s future skills requirements for engineers in this multidisciplinary field.”
Brunel’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research Professor Geoff Rodgers explained that when structural integrity management fails, the results can be “catastrophic”. He said: “All types of products and plant are at risk if designers, manufacturers and users do not understand how to build safe structures.”
Professor Rodgers emphasised the importance of the new National Centre’s role in equipping UK industry with world-class engineers who can lead the development of new products in industries ranging from oil and gas and energy generation to aerospace, road transport and medical devices.
He concluded: “This award is a great opportunity for Brunel, with our partner TWI, to create and lead a national centre where universities and industry can carry out research addressing the long term challenges associated with making materials and structures safer.”
It is likely that the centre will provide knowledge transfer and research translation opportunity – where businesses spring up around it commercialising the intellectual property produced – so this is potentially a real boost for hi-tech employment.