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TWI’s Innovation Centres extend industry and technical reach

Tue, 28 January, 2020

TWI Innovation Network is delighted to report that in 2019 it successfully expanded the number of Innovation Centres it now delivers in partnership with leading universities, taking the total number to 11 by the end of the year.  The new additions are: the Additive Manufacturing Research Centre (AMIC) launched with Lancaster University; the Artificial Intelligence Centre (essex.ai), in conjunction with the University of Essex, which opened its doors in Q3; and the Renewable Energy Innovation Centre (RENEW) with the University of Bedfordshire which was formed in Q4.  In combination, the total complement of Innovation Centres means that TWI is now undertaking proprietary, joint research and development (R&D) in robotics, data science, digital twin, structural integrity, joining, materials, resins and coatings, additive manufacturing, polymers and more.

TWI’s Innovation Centres aim to secure and deliver publicly funded projects, from bodies such as the European Commission and Innovate UK, that reflect TWI Members’ interests and the industries they operate in.  In addition, the Centres offer opportunities for PhDs students, in conjunction with the National Structural Integrity Research Centre (NSIRC), to develop their future careers by working in a real-world industry environment.

Below we share with you some of the achievements of our Innovation Centres in 2019:

The Advanced Resins and Coatings Innovation Centre (ARCTIC) won funding from Innovate UK for the PRISTINE project: Super durable paint-repellent coating for long life anti-graffiti protection and ICELIP: Ice-phobic and durable coatings for the aerospace and energy sectors.  Its staff also published 4 papers in leading journals including ‘Surface Coatings Technology’ and ‘Journal of Sol-Gel Science and Technology’. The Centre has also been updating its roadmap so that it fully aligns with 2020 grant challenges.

The Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC), launched in early 2019, submitted two significant proposals to Innovate UK: iAM-3DPO: Intelligent additive manufacturing for dynamic process optimisation, and AE-DED: Acoustic emission monitoring for directed energy deposition.  They also held the Metal Additive Manufacturing Symposium in South Yorkshire which was chaired by AMIC Director Prof Rob Scudamore.  The day was attended by over 100 delegates including 40+ industrial partners such as Boeing, the Ministry of Defence and Trumpf, and more than 10 universities.

Brunel Composites Innovation Centre (BCC) secured four European Commission (EC) funded projects. The aerospace manufacturing-related PADICTON and SEER projects; TCTOOL: Innovative tooling, end-effector development and industrialisation for welding of thermoplastic components, under Clean Sky; and D-Joints: Design of innovative composite hybrid joints with electromagnetic compatibility.  The Centre also successfully attracted funding from Innovate for the HIPPAC project: High performance pultrusion for advanced composites.

Brunel Innovation Centre (BIC) celebrated the significant milestone of 10 years in operation by October 2019.  During the year, it secured funding from the EC for the Soundcom project: power ultrasound to strengthen digital concrete structures and from Innovate UK for SMARTAR to create augmented reality glasses to detect Freezing-Of-Gait (FOG) in Parkinson’s patients.  The Centre also commenced five projects it had won in 2018 and published two book chapters, three journal papers and seven conference papers.

The Healthcare Innovation Centre (HIC) attracted funding for the QuickFit and iChair projects, both from Innovate UK, and funding from the Horizon 2020 programme for the SocketSense project, an advanced, sensor-based socket system, tailored to the patient, that will use real-time monitoring of residual limb tissues evolvement by collecting data through embedded sensors.  Staff published three papers and the Centre also held its first ever workshop as part of Teesside University’s Health and Wellbeing Grand Challenge.

The Joining 4.0 Innovation Centre (J4IC) won funding from Innovate UK for the Weld Zero project: Digital fabrication for welding, under the Made Smarter programme, a key element of the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenges Fund which addresses how UK manufacturing can benefit from adoption of digital technology.  Two PhD students, a Post-doctoral Research Assistant and a Business Development Consultant joined the team.  The Centre also supported the High Value Manufacturing Catapult on advanced rotary friction welding development.

London South Bank Innovation Centre (LSBIC) secured funding for two projects: TCTOOL (Clean Sky) on which it has partnered with BCC and the Polymers Materials, Engineering, Research and Innovation Centre as part of the consortium, and Robo-Pack (Innovate UK): Development of an advanced robotic manipulator for rapid inspection and packing of fresh produce.  Staff published five papers during the year and also contributed to the Knowledge Transfer Network report: USA Robotics and Artificial Intelligence in Extreme Environments 2019.

The Materials Innovation Centre (MatIC) attracted EC funding for the WeldGalaxy and Geo-HeX projects, and Innovate UK funding for the FlexiBat project, for which a Postdoctoral Research Assistant was recruited.  Four papers, covering subjects including ‘Use of thermally sprayed aluminium (TSA) coatings to protect offshore structures in submerged and splash zones’ and Using variant selection to facilitate accurate fitting of γ peaks in neutron diffraction’, were published in leading journals.

The Polymers Materials, Engineering, Research and Innovation Centre (PolyMERIC) is currently working on two projects: TCTOOL: Innovative tooling, end-effector development and industrialisation for welding of thermoplastic components, under Clean Sky alongside BCC and LSBIC, and PROMOTE: Advanced pipe relining technology manufactured from plastic waste recyclates which aims to address the problem of persistent plastic waste and lack of adequate recycling solutions that pose a significant challenge to current and future generations.  The Centre also appointed a Research Fellow.

In further developments, the recently opened RENEW and essex.ai Innovation Centres have already set out their research agendas and are now applying for project funding.

With its sights set on future opportunities for industry engagement and disruptive technologies, 2020 will see the development of TWI’s first Innovation Centre outside the UK, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Sabanci University in Istanbul, Turkey.  R&D for this new Centre will focus on integrated manufacturing and related platforms such as additive manufacturing for metals and composites, 3D printing of structures from prototype to large scale, and nanotechnology.

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