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TWI’s Innovation Centres Increase Industry Impact in 2020

Tue, 26 January, 2021

TWI’s Innovation Centres Increase Industry Impact in 2020

TWI Innovation Network (TWIIN) strengthened its roster of Innovation Centres in 2020 with the creation of six new ones, five of which follow a new virtual model and are designed to take advantage of existing facilities and ways of remote team working, and a sixth which is TWIIN’s first one in collaboration with a non-UK based University.  You can read about the new Centres below as well as gain an insight into some of the collaborative projects and other achievements of our existing ones during 2020.  TWI’s Innovation Centres aim to secure and deliver projects that are publicly funded, by bodies such as the European Commission and Innovate UK, and 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.

The Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre (AMIC) was successful in winning the Innovate UK funded project iAM-3DPO: Intelligent additive manufacturing for dynamic process optimisation in 2020.  Several bids were submitted for further project funding, including a large proposal, with Leicester University, to the EPSRC’s Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge for digital manufacturing.  AMIC also held a virtual Metal Additive Manufacturing Symposium, chaired by AMIC Director Prof Rob Scudamore, which included speakers from the University of Cambridge, Rolls-Royce, the European Space Agency, the European Welding Federation and more.  The day-long Symposium was attended by nearly 400 delegates from 31 different countries.

The Artificial Intelligence Innovation Centre (essex.ai) launched in October 2019 and subsequently won Innovate UK funding for the NeuRestore project: Brain computer interface driven rehabilitation of upper limb weakness of stroke survivors.  NeuRestore features motor imagery (MI), a dynamic state in which a subject mentally repeats a specific movement or sequence without any overt motor output, with virtual reality representation to enable three-dimensional MI feedback.  In 2021, the Centre is starting the Horizon 2020 project Softgrip: Functionalised soft robotic gripper for delicate produce harvesting powered by imitation learning-based control, and it is now recruiting four Research Assistants.

Brunel Composites Innovation Centre (BCC) secured two Innovate UK funded projects; one through Smart Grants titled PROTECT: Modular multi-material crash-box for tailored impact absorption during low speed collision, and one through EUREKA titled BRACE: breakthrough reinforcement for added chassis efficiency.  The Centre also successfully published a peer-reviewed paper in each of Science and Engineering of Composite Materials, Engineering Computations and MDPI - Sensors.  BCC participated in the 19th European Conference on Composite Materials and presented two research activities based on the current H2020 projects COMBUSS and FLEX. BCC also welcomed two new Research Fellows in 2020.

Brunel Innovation Centre (BIC) successfully completed the CITCOM, iFROG, DIMOS, Optrail, Hi-Leak and Win-D-Ice projects in 2020 as well as securing Innovate UK funding for a number of new ones.  These include ATTIC, SonicSMR, SmartForm and SafeJail: to develop contraband detection in prisons using safe, continuous, passive terahertz imaging.  The Centre is working with Sellafield and the National Nuclear Lab on a decommissioning project: Exogenous ultrasonics for POCO, and has been recognised by the EC’s Innovation Radar as a ‘Key Innovator’ for its research on CITCOM: a complementary inspection technique based on computer tomography and plenoptic camera for microelectromechanical systems components.

The Healthcare Innovation Centre (HIC) is currently running the Innovate UK funded ICHAIR: AI-based healthcare system for elderly people and INTELLISCAN: Enhanced AI-based breast MRI interpretation system projects, as well as the EU funded project SOCKETSENSE to develop an innovative, advanced, sensor-based socket system that will enable comfortable socket manufacturing for above knee amputees.  Staff published eight papers during the year and presented at a number of key events including The European Forum for Electronic Components and Systems, the 5th International Conference on Computer and Communication Systems, OTWORLD.CONNECT and EDGE-Tech: Emerging and Disruptive next-Generation Technologies for POC.

The Joining 4.0 Innovation Centre (J4IC) won funding (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) for the 5GEM-UK: 5G Enhabled Manufacture – UK project which aims to demonstrate the value 5G will bring to industry by creating testbeds at two sites: Ford Motor Company in Dunton and TWI’s facility in Cambridge.  The testbeds will showcase how 5G technology can facilitate real-time monitoring of manufacturing machines and processes, enable real-time control of these and improve data collection, all leading to enhanced capability for monitoring the shop floor.  J4IC also welcomed a new Project Leader and a new PhD student.

The Materials Innovation Centre (MatIC) is currently running three EU Horizon 2020 projects: WeldGalaxy on knowledge platform for welding in manufacturing; GeoHeX on developing advanced materials for geothermal heat exchangers; and FORGE on development of novel and cost-effective coatings for high-energy processing applications.  Simultaneously, it is working on INHALE, a project developing halide-free ionic liquids for the electrodeposition of zinc and zinc alloys (Horizon 2020 MSCA); FlexiBat, a project developing thin, flexible printed batteries; and Battman3D, developing novel multi-material 3D printed batteries (both Innovate UK).  MatIC also welcomed a Research Associate for GeoHeX and a Marie Curie Fellow for INHALE.

The Renewable Energy Innovation Centre (RENEW), a strategic collaboration between the University of Bedfordshire and TWI, is currently waiting to hear the outcome of project bids it has submitted.  RENEW focuses on R&D designed to identify, test and qualify new sustainable energy technologies that will form the basis of tomorrow’s novel systems, applications and solutions for the renewable energy industry.  Core areas, that will play an essential role on the path towards sustainable systems and net zero strategies, include maintenance, inspection and monitoring, power generation, networks and distribution, failure modes and effects analysis, and digitalisation of legacy systems.

The following Innovation Centres, all of which were formed in 2020, have been busy submitting proposals for collaborative projects and are currently awaiting the results of bidding activity.  In addition, they have each held a dedicated road mapping workshop resulting in a priority canvas for shaping the future development of the centre.

The Circular Economy and Recycling Innovation Centre (CERIC) was established in May 2020, as a joint venture between Teesside University and TWI, to advance new disruptive technologies designed to help reduce industry’s reliance on finite resources and eliminate waste.  R&D will examine areas such as recycling, re-use and re-manufacturing, with the aim of conceiving break-through systems and/or processes which will inform the closed-loop approach of the circular economy.  Core areas include physical interventions such as prostheses and assistive technologies, treatment optimisation such as low-cost diagnostics and predictive models, future therapies such as bioprocessing and virtual reality applications.

The Digital Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (DMIC) was launched in June 2020 by TWI and Sabanci University, who is hosting the new Centre on its site in Istanbul, Turkey.  A Europe-centric approach is central to DMIC which aims to engage with the wider innovation community to deepen digital manufacturing technologies, creating novel products, systems and services.  DMIC will work closely with TWI Hellas, TWI’s operations in Athens, Greece.  Core areas include smart, digital additive manufacturing processes, simulation and digital twin for real-time monitoring, new technologies for autonomous and electric vehicles, and structural health and condition monitoring.

The Industrial Decarbonisation and Hydrogen Innovation Centre (IDHIC), also established in May 2020, is the second Innovation Centre formed by Teesside University and TWI.  Its focus is on developing cost effective, low-carbon technologies to support industry’s drive for clean energy growth, helping companies to reduce the impact their operations have on the environment and look at solutions to harness hydrogen for wider use.  Core areas include fuel cell development, converting energy into electric power, materials technologies to enable future transportation, resource efficient manufacturing and refining systems, and energy management processes for monitoring, control and conservation of energy.

The Industrial Net Zero Innovation Centre (INZIC) was formed by Digital Catapult and TWI in March 2020 with the ambition of helping organisations tackle industrial net zero challenges, by exploiting advanced digital technologies and deep industrial domain expertise, to create new market opportunities for UK tech start-ups and industrial businesses.  Core areas include advanced digital technologies in asset maintenance, service and repair, digital twin for real-time monitoring, digital transformation of traditional manufacturing processes and move to smart factories, and development of artificial intelligence, internet of things and block chain technologies.

The Fatigue and Structural Integrity Innovation Centre had its inception in June 2020 and was launched by existing strategic partners Coventry University and TWI Ltd who have a long history of working together.  The new Centre will undertake collaborative R&D to develop new technologies at Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) 1-6, aimed at deepening the use of fatigue and structural integrity applications across industry.  Core areas include residual stress analysis for improved structural integrity, novel condition monitoring techniques, digital twin for real-time monitoring, and advanced non-destructive testing and inspection techniques.

Lastly, the 5G, Computer Science and Engineering Innovation Centre was created by the University of Hertfordshire and TWI through its wholly owned subsidiary in Athens, TWI Hellas, in November 2020.  Development plans are currently underway with more details to follow as 2021 progresses.

Tat-Hean Gan, Director of Innovation and Skills at TWI said “It has been inspiring to see our existing Innovation Centres go from strength-to-strength in 2020, with the securing of more funding to progress new technology development, as well as the inception of a number of new Innovation Centres focused on really crucial areas for world business right now such as the circular economy, digital manufacturing, low carbon technologies, achieving net zero and asset lifecycle extension.”

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