Centre for Doctoral Training in Non-Destructive Evaluation

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Dept of Mechanical Engineering

Abstract

We propose a Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Non-Destructive Evaluation (NDE). The Centre will conduct adventurous research to improve the industrial practice of NDE. It will maintain a flow of skilled doctoral engineers and scientists into the field of NDE and provide a route for knowledge and technology transfer to maximise the industrial and economic impact of new and emerging NDE technologies. NDE is central to raising the quality of engineering materials and safety assurance of engineering structures. It is thus a vital ingredient for the safe and sustainable future of UK industry, including power generation, nuclear, oil & gas, aerospace and defence. NDE is also an important enabling technology for a range of future UK business growth opportunities.Advanced NDE uses a range of physical phenomena to detect anomalies in structures and materials. This requires its research base to encompass a very wide range of scientific and engineering skills and this proposal is therefore centred upon a consortium of academic institutions in the UK Research Centre in NDE (RCNDE) and will utilise the most appropriate as well as the highest quality researchers and supervisors. Our vision for this CDT is to rejuvenate key sectors of UK industry by training the next generation of NDE engineers in adventurous research and by improving technology & skills transfer. These are essential for ensuring safe and economic production and plant operation. The CDT will build on the success of the current EngD Centre in NDE which it replaces, and whose role was highlighted in the EngD review commissioned by EPSRC in 2007 for the provision of vital training for new staff to replace core NDE personnel after a period of under-investment in the area. It is vital to maintain the momentum thus gained. The new Centre will run in parallel with the RCNDE collaboration whose industrial members are represented by NDEvR, the industrial Partner of the Strategic Partnership. RCNDE started in 2003 and this year has 16 industrial user members paying 35k per annum plus a growing number of associate members (technology suppliers). Its programmes of research are supported by EPSRC and member companies also spend approaching 1M pa on projects to transfer technology from the universities into industrial use. This is strong evidence of the industrial need for exploitable research and training.From its start the CDT will therefore have strong industrial support and exploit the cohesion of the RCNDE academic-industrial collaboration. Following the guidance of NDEvR's industrial members, the proposed CDT will aim to integrate NDE into the engineering life cycle in order to deepen the CDT's impact upon each partner company, attract new companies and reach a larger cross-section of graduate applicants. Our industrial partners agree that it is vital to join up the disciplines of NDE with condition monitoring, structural performance, materials engineering and design. In addition to performing excellent research, the core institutions in this CDT are committed to exploiting the substantial knowledge and skills in the universities by transforming their research results into industrial technology. The student research engineers in the CDT will be in a unique position to assist this by acting as a human bridge for technology transfer, their projects closing the gap between the research base and user.

Planned Impact

Immediate impact will be with the companies where the students are placed and ultimately employed. These include the majority of the UK power industry, manufacturers of gas and steam turbines, the nuclear, defence, aerospace and transportation industries. They will benefit through more efficient and safer plant operation, fewer interruptions to production, reduced wastage, less outage time, and the rejuvenation of an ageing workforce through the recruitment of high profile engineers. NDE is crucial to public safety and therefore the HSE will also be able to use its involvement to inform safety policy and regulation. Indirectly the whole UK economy will benefit through greater efficiency and less down-time, and UK society through increased safety and reduced environmental risk. NDE is an enabling technology and a wide range of companies (many of them SMEs) will benefit from the growth opportunities afforded by advanced NDE instrumentation and services. Many of the beneficiaries are existing collaborators, who have been engaged regularly through the UK Research Centre in NDE (RCNDE), an industry-university collaboration, whose HQ is at Imperial. These companies are represented by NDEvR, the Industrial Partner in the Strategic Partnership. They will meet with the academics at 3 plenary meetings annually, an annual research review, typically 3 technology readiness workshops, university visits by industrialists and industrial visits by academics. All of these strengthen communication and focus engagement. The technology supplier beneficiaries actively participate in many of the RCNDE events listed above, especially technology transfer workshops. It is also planned to extend the reach of collaboration with industry, through expanding industrial membership and engagement in the proposed training. The core universities are already engaged with third sector and intermediary organisations, and such links will be expanded. Thus individual members play leading roles on the committees of the British Institute of NDT, which acts as both the professional institution and trade body for the NDE sector. This is an important link for dissemination, because the majority of the industrial companies that exploit NDE are members. The universities already collaborate with various RTOs such as QinetiQ. Discussions have been initiated with other intermediaries including ESR Technology, Doosan Babcock and Highways Agency. These will be pursued during the lifetime of this CDT. In terms of wider public engagement, students from the existing EngD Centre have been involved with raising the profile of engineering in schools. An Imperial student was also seconded to the Parliamentary Office for Science & Technology. Such engagement activities will continue to be promoted within the CDT. The CDT will operate alongside RCNDE, whose over-riding purpose is to carry out world-class research that can be exploited by the engineering industry. While individual companies have ultimate responsibility for exploiting the research of their own students, the Partnership Governance Board (which will oversee both the CDT and RCNDE) has a duty to facilitate the future exploitation of the outputs to benefit wider industry. It will identify outputs with potentially large impact across more than one user-company and/or sector. The Board will continue to organise technology transfer workshops targeted towards specific NDE areas. Because advanced NDE represents a significant market opportunity for equipment suppliers including many SMEs, they will be invited to participate in the CDT and to attend technology transfer workshops to ensure maximum impact upon their businesses in product development and service provision.

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