A multilateral study being conducted by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the National Composites Centre (NCC), the University of Southampton and Solent LEP is scrutinising the viability of a Solent-based R&D centre for large-scale composite construction for the marine and oil and gas sectors.

The move follows a report by Rear Admiral Rob Stevens CB entitled ‘Transforming Solent’, which in response to dwindling shipbuilding activity in the region, made a number of recommendations, among which was the opportunity to establish a ‘Large Structures Composites Centre’ that would establish the UK as a global centre of excellence in marine composite construction.

In response to the recommendations, Michael Fallon MP, said, “The report argues that such a centre would allow companies to develop advanced manufacturing techniques for large structures across the whole composites industry. The local expertise in the marine industry, along with the importance of waterfront access, is a key driver for locating such a centre in the Solent region.”

What the centre could look like.

Previous research, Mr Fallon said, has established that a ‘capability gap’ does exist for such a centre. But further studies are now being undertaken to identify the level of demand that would be generated by its establishment. “With the government’s Industrial Strategy now published, and the work of the CLF (Composites Leadership Forum) indicating further industry demand, it’s vital that we gain participation from all companies wishing to undertake prototyping of large composites structures.”

SuperyachtNews.com spoke to Richard Acland, CEO of locally based composites specialist, Green Marine about the potential benefits of such a project to the British superyacht sector. He said the company had been monitoring developments for a sustained period of time with interest. “We are involved as a composites stakeholder”, he explained, “although at this stage we are not taking a direct role in this project.”

Acland also felt that such a centre would be of great benefit to the superyacht sector in the UK. “I’d like to know a little bit more about how the business model can help people like us, but fundamentally, if there’s a resource to help us grow our business then that’s fantastic.”

The representative body Composites Leadership Forum (CLF) will publish a full report on the future of the British composites sector in late 2014. The CLF’s chair, Alison Starr said, “We very much welcome this study as, through detailed work with our industrial sector representatives, we’ve recognised that there is a UK gap in capability. There are no facilities of a scale that could be utilised for research and technology development of large structures.”

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Green Marine Offshore Composites Ltd.

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