Public Release: 

Cable announces £30 million for advanced materials and non-destructive evaluation research

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

New research that will improve safety and efficiency of gas turbines, rail tracks, fuel pipelines and other important infrastructure will receive a boost today when a new £30 million joint investment by government and industry is announced by Secretary of State for Industry the Rt. Hon Vince Cable MP.

The two new packages of research will:

  • Develop advanced materials such as high performance alloys for use in aerospace industries to further improve the efficiency, safety and noise levels of gas turbines

  • Investigate new and better methods of non-destructive evaluation (NDE) to improve the safety and longevity of critical UK infrastructure and to support and enable high-value manufacturing across important UK industry sectors.

Speaking at the Mission-Oriented Finance for Innovation event at the House of Commons, Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "These new £30 million partnerships are a significant investment in the development of advanced materials to support aerospace and high-value manufacturing across the UK. The collaborations between universities and businesses, including the likes of Rolls-Royce, Tata Steel and GKN are an excellent example of how our Industrial Strategy is giving businesses the confidence to invest and secure a stronger, more balanced economy."

Professor Philip Nelson, Chief Executive of EPSRC, said: "These investments show how valuable long term partnerships between industry and the research councils can be. In this instance delivering better understanding of materials will bring efficiencies in production, maintenance and cost savings and help to maintain an exemplary safety record. EPSRC will continue to forge such collaborations to make the UK the best place for research and innovation."

Professor Tony Dunhill, Associate Fellow for NDT said: "Rolls-Royce is delighted to be a co-investor in both of these Strategic Partnerships, Structural Metallic Systems for Advanced Gas Turbines and Non-Destructive Testing. The increasing demands placed on our products, together with the extreme environments in which they operate, mean that investing in skills and knowledge in advanced materials and Non-Destructive Testing is essential for our business."

The Strategic Partnership in Structural Metallic Systems for Advanced Gas Turbine Applications is the next stage in a 10 year partnership between Rolls-Royce and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). It will develop advanced materials to reduce fuel consumption and noise and increase aviation efficiency.

The programme will involve researchers at the universities of Birmingham, Cambridge, and Swansea University (who are also core funding partners) in addition to Manchester, Oxford, Sheffield and Imperial College London, as well as industry partners such as TWI, Timet and Tata Steel. It will be funded by £8 million EPSRC contribution and £12 million in cash and in-kind support from Rolls-Royce.

The Strategic Partnership is unique as it combines a focused post-doctoral research with a flexible post-grad research programme. This enables the programme to exploit fundamental research and data to benefit the UK aerospace sector as well as producing 200 highly trained engineers attaining a PhD or EngD. This directly addresses issues raised within a recent BIS report highlighting skills shortages in the sector (BIS report 'Lifting Off: Implementing the Strategic Vision for UK Aerospace', 18 Mar 2013)

The UK Research Centre in Non-Destructive Evaluation is a consortium led by Imperial College London and involving the universities of Bristol, Manchester, Nottingham, Strathclyde and Warwick. It will involve more than 40 companies across major industry sectors including aerospace, nuclear, and oil and gas, developing tools and techniques to detect defects and extend the life and prevent failure of critical UK infrastructure such as pipelines, power stations and aircraft.

The centre will be funded by a £5.4 million grant over six years from EPSRC and this will be matched by an equivalent £5.4 million in cash and in-kind contributions from industrial partners of the NDE Research Association (NDEvR) through its own Strategic Partnership with EPSRC.

Non-Destructive Evaluation involves the use of sensor and imaging technologies to assess the condition of components and structures in many situations, from manufacture and throughout their service lives.

The impact that Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) has had on the UK's priority technology areas and High Value Manufacturing competencies is outlined in A Landscape for the Future of NDT in the UK Economy a Knowledge Transfer Network publication.


Notes to editors

For further information and images please contact the EPSRC press office on tel: 01793 444 404 or email

Further reading: A Landscape for the Future of NDT in the UK Economy


Rolls-Royce's vision is to create better power for a changing world via two main business segments, Aerospace and Marine & Industrial Power Systems (MIPS). These business segments address markets with two strong technology platforms, gas turbines and reciprocating engines, for use on land, at sea and in the air. Annual underlying revenue was £15.5 billion in 2013, around half of which came from the provision of aftermarket services. Rolls-Royce employs over 55,000 people in 45 countries. Over 17,000 of these are engineers.

UK Research Centre in Non-Destructive Evaluation (RCNDE)

RCNDE is an EPSRC-sponsored collaboration between industry and academia to coordinate research into NDE technologies, and to ensure research topics are relevant to the medium to longer-term needs of industry. RCNDE is founded on the guiding principles of world-class scientific research and industrial application. RCNDE's vision is to see NDE transform into a fully integrated part of the engineering life cycle. RCNDE will progressively link up with other disciplines, particularly structural integrity, materials science and engineering design.

The financial and commercial support for RCNDE is handled by the NDE Research Association (NDEvR).


Full members (NDE end users): Airbus, AMEC, BAE Systems, BP, EDF, Dstl, E.ON, GKN, Hitachi Europe, Office for Nuclear Regulation, NNL, Petrobras, Rolls-Royce, Shell, SKF and Tenaris

Associate members (NDE supply chain):

Alba Ultrasound; Doosan; Renishaw plc; Eddyfi; Silverwing; EPRI; Sonatest; ETher NDE Ltd; Sonemat; GE Inspection; Sonomatic; Guided Ultrasonics Ltd.; Sonovation; Inspectahire; Sound Mathematics; KANDE; International STS; Lavender International; Tribosonics; Peak NDT; TWI; Nuclear AMRC; Ultrasonic Sciences Ltd;. Olympus NDT; Weidlinger Associates; Permasense; Vibrant NDT Ltd.; Phoenix Inspection Systems Ltd.; Zetec, and British Institute of NDT (BINDT).

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

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