Dr Cable at the cutting edge

Thu, 03 Nov 2011 10:38:00 GMT

vince cable visit

Business secretary Dr Vince Cable (centre left) and University of Huddersfield Vice-Chancellor Professor Bob Cryan (centre right)  are instructed in the cutting edge research at the new EPSRC Centre

DURING a week in which he described his vision for the future of innovative British manufacturing as a key contributor to the economy, Business Secretary Vince Cable visited the University of Huddersfield, where a multi-million pound research centre promises major breakthroughs in precision engineering.

Earlier this year, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) was awarded funding of £4.7 million to the globally-renowned Centre for Precision Technologies at the University of Huddersfield.  A consortium of leading UK firms and organisations contributed a further £3 million and the result was that an EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Advanced Metrology was established at the University.

The Centre – led by Professors Jane Jiang, Liam Blunt and Alan Myers – has embarked on a five-year project which will lead to the creation of a “factory on a machine”.  Companies will be able to fit their existing machine tools with devices that ensure almost total accuracy during manufacture.  The result will be massive savings in costs and huge increases in efficiency.

During his fact-finding visit to the University of Huddersfield EPSRC Centre, Dr Cable officially opened the Centre before inspecting the newly-developed Optical Lab for a demonstration of optic development stations.  The equipment was designed and built by Huddersfield scientists and is already the subject of a number of patents, as a precursor to commercial development.  The stations are used to develop optic sensors that can then be fitted to machine tools.

Dr Cable then moved on the University’s CNC Machine Tool Lab and was shown a five-axis milling machine used to manufacture components such as moulds for casting intricate parts.  When fitted with one of the specially-developed optical sensors, the machine will achieve huge accuracy gains during manufacture.  There will no longer be a necessity for a part to taken from the machine to be checked and measured separately – hence the “factory on a machine” concept.

Dr Cable was also shown some of the other technology labs, including the National Physical Laboratory’s facility at the University of Huddersfield.

“It has been really encouraging to see the progress being made in the development of this cutting-edge research facility at the University of Huddersfield,” said Dr Cable.  “The Centre will be a driver of growth both locally and nationally.  It will bring together our leading researchers and best businesses, leading to improvements in manufacturing processes and ensuring British industry stays ahead of the game in precision technology.”

Business Secretary keen to support universities’ new technologies

At the start of the week of his visit, Dr Cable penned a major article in  "The Times" newspaper in which he stressed the importance of manufacturing “at the heart of a strong and balanced UK economy”.

He described an industrial policy which will provide support for new technologies as they progress from academic science to commercial application and he acknowledged “the growing volume of spin-offs from our research-intensive universities”.

The University of Huddersfield EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing is one of 12 now established by the EPSRC at universities throughout the UK.  Each one has an area of speciality.

The University of Huddersfield’s EPSRC Centre has a number of academic and industrial partners.  They include David Brown, Rolls Royce, Taylor Hobson, Cummins Turbo Technologies, Asquith Butler, Zeiss, CIP Technologies, Neuteq, MTA, MTT, the Science and Technology Facilities Council and the NPL.

Said the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bob Cryan: “I was delighted to welcome Dr Cable to the University of Huddersfield, and to show him our new EPSRC centre. The fact that such a large part of its funding comes from a consortium of leading companies is a powerful demonstration of the fact that our research at Huddersfield is user-led. It meets the demands of industry and will make a real impact on the rebalancing of the economy on which the Coalition Government rightly lays so much stress.

“This was a week in which Dr Cable acknowledged the economic importance of university-based research and he also announced the creation of a new Technology Innovation Centre that will focus on high-value engineering. The work being done by our EPSRC centre, leading to huge gains in machine tool accuracy, fits this agenda perfectly and we will continue to foster strong links with the new TIC.”


Back to news index - Interviews