EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Innovative Metal Processing IMPaCT

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Engineering


Metal processing is a vital component of manufacturing. Manufacturing is the third largest sector in the UK economy and in 2010 manufacturing in the United Kingdom accounted for 8.2% of the workforce and 12% (£150 billion in gross value added) of the country's national output. However, manufacturing's share of nominal GDP has fallen from over 22 per cent in 1990 and there is a clear trend in low value, high volume manufacturing moving to developing countries while in the UK the higher technology areas generate the better gross value added returns. The future growth of the sector is dependent on its ability to design and make the high value products. In large part, it is the high quality knowledge base and skilled technical workforce that make for a successful transformation from a resource and labour-intensive to a knowledge-intensive sector and ensure that high technology metal industries flourish in the UK.

An important aspect of supporting high-value manufacturing in the UK is the PhD training of young researchers. However, it has been pointed out by many companies in the UK that the lack of well-trained materials engineers remains a concern for high value manufacturing industry. Indeed, in 2013 the UK Border Agency identified "metallurgist" as one of the 10 most wanted job titles in the Codes of Practice for Skilled workers.
In this proposal, the Universities of Leicester, Birmingham and Nottingham seek funding to establish an EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Innovative Metal Processing (CIMP) with substantial support from industrial partners. Over the lifetime of the CIMP we will train over 87 PhD researchers with the combination of experimental, analytical, computational, technology management and transferable skills that are needed to build industrial innovation.

The Centre will recruit students from different disciplines and provide them with coherent knowledge of a range of metal processing technologies and develop their expertise in solving challenging and industrially relevant problems so that they can be deployed by industry and become future leaders. The overall emphasis of the CDT's training programme will be on producing well-rounded leaders of the future, combining critical expertise in their discipline areas with a well-honed professional acumen, culminating in the ability to explore the wider context of their work and its potential impact, communicate their research to a range of different audiences, understand the commercial world and the applications of research, and work effectively with a range of partners both within and outside the academic community.

The main research aims are: (1) to provide a deep understanding of the physical phenomena during metal processing, (2) to develop analytical and computational models for metal processing, (3) to design and optimise reliable manufacturing processes to accelerate product development and (4) to design new processes for novel materials.

CIMP will build on the relationships the universities already have with our industrial partners and augment those relationships over the longer term by building a shared vision of researcher and continuing professional training and developing a deeper understanding of the challenges that drive innovation and impact in metal processing. Our marketing and recruiting activities will promote the profile of the metal processing industry in the UK and help attract a talented workforce. Our Summer School will also have an outreach activity "targeting" secondary school students to engage them in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects and especially to inspire women and girls to pursue (STEM) as pathways to exciting and fulfilling careers.

Planned Impact

Over the last thirty years various factors including globalisation have driven low value manufacturing production activities towards countries with the lowest labour costs and/or the largest markets. Whilst the UK has seen a growth in high technology areas, it remains vulnerable to further erosion of manufacturing capability. To help combat this, the UK needs to effectively train the next generation of research and technology leaders. The proposed Centre for Doctoral Training developed with 14 partners (including 8 major industrial partners) fully aligns with this strategic need in the field of Innovative Metal Processing.

UK manufacturing companies are expected to benefit significantly from the output of trained staff from our Centre in Innovative Metal Processing. We will train over 87 PhD researchers with the capacity to lead cutting edge research and create significant technological innovation in UK manufacturing industry. Those that recruit our graduates will have staff that are well rounded and capable of driving forward innovation with a clear understanding of industrial needs, priorities and goals. They will bring to businesses core competencies in design and production in the metal processing industry where underpinning modelling, analytical and experimental skills are crucial. Those employing our graduates will be better able to innovate and bring new products and processes to market, develop new opportunities and create wealth for the UK. Whilst our partners will be well placed to offer employment to our graduates, the high growth and high research and development intensity of SMEs means they can especially benefit from our PhDs. Our industrial partners will benefit directly from the findings of joint research projects and from the intellectual property generated from such work. Identifying pathways to impact, arising from research into improvements in processes or products, will be embedded in all of our research activities.

The people we recruit will derive great benefits from the education and training provided. Our training programme aims to recruit the best students from a range of disciplines and provide them with coherent a knowledge base, transferable & leadership skills, and a challenging and industrially relevant research project. We will provide training courses delivered by world-leading experts with high-quality, industrial- oriented research supported by world-class partners. We will provide access to a range of key skills, core competencies and academic expertise, as well as exposure to the challenges and opportunities in industry through industrially related projects, short term experience in industrial placements and international institutions. Over the life of the Centre our student cohorts will be challenged to make a difference to others in society by outreach work with schools and colleges and mentoring and project work with undergraduates at our universities. This will have affect how society perceives the role of manufacturing in society and positively influence the uptake of STEM subjects at university and the numbers of applicants for our CDT programme.

The wider international research community will gain from the knowledge outputs of our CDT. Metal processing is a broad technical (e.g. casting, welding, surface engineering, near net-shape forming etc.) but it is also very complex. Indeed, the design and optimisation of metal processing has been a challenging task since the Bronze Age. Our research aims to provide an enhanced understanding which will be presented at conferences and published in peer-reviewed international journals under open access. Summer Schools, with invited expert speakers, will promote more informal knowledge exchange and sharing whilst news of our important research findings will be released on the Web through our well-established Press Offices


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