EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Future Innovation in Non-Destructive evaluation (FIND)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Mechanical Engineering

Abstract

The vision of the FIND CDT is to be a leading international centre of excellence in Doctoral-level training in sensing, imaging and analysis for Non-Destructive Evaluation (NDE). Our aim is that in 8 years' time all the major end-users of NDE will have at least one of our doctoral graduates progressing to senior research and technical roles. These graduates will have been instrumental in making UK industry world leaders in the integration of NDE in the anticipated 4th industrial revolution (i.e. the seamless integration of the physical and digital domains).

NDE is an underpinning technology that encompasses a wide range of sensing, imaging and analysis techniques. The societal impact of NDE is hugely significant; aircraft would not fly and power stations would not generate electricity without the use of NDE to ensure their safe and continued operation. It is used at every stage in the engineering life-cycle: a) during manufacture to ensure quality, b) through-life to ensure safety and c) for plant life-extension. NDE is also an economic enabler that is crucial for many important industrial sectors, e.g. aerospace, energy, nuclear, automotive, defence and renewables. As an underpinning technology NDE supports many aspects of the UK Government's Industrial Strategy, such as clean energy and future manufacturing.

FIND has been actively co-created by a consortium of 49 companies including industry sector leaders such as: Airbus, Rolls-Royce, EDF, BAE Systems and Shell who are contributing over £3M in cash. These companies have identified a significant doctoral skills shortage in this area as well as an ageing workforce. This skills need is driven by developments such as new materials, advanced manufacturing technologies, robotic systems, the civil nuclear renaissance and the pressing requirement to extend the life of our ageing national infrastructure.

This vision will be achieved through a cohort-based approach to training that will equip our graduates with n ability to research, develop and implement state-of-the-art NDE techniques as well as a clear understanding of the challenges faced by industry. We will develop this training as an evolution of the current CDT in Quantitative Non-Destructive Evaluation, with all aspects refreshed and extended based on the identified new and evolving industrial needs, both technical and skills based. We align our research with new themes: Future NDE technologies, Future infrastructure NDE and Future manufacturing NDE, designed to drive forward the 4th industrial revolution.

Our technical training will cover the range of NDE sensing and imaging techniques (e.g. electromagnetic, ultrasonic, radiographic) and the analysis of data (e.g. signal processing, detection theory). Transferable skills training will be delivered through tailored modules co-created with our industrial partners. The co-creation means that industry will be involved in delivering aspects of the taught modules as well as providing significant placements and funding. For example, with industry we will develop training to ensure that our graduates have the skills needed to innovate and bring new research to market. Through these partnerships we will ensure that our CDT delivers the breadth and depth of doctoral training required by industry, enabling our graduates to play major roles in ensuring future UK prosperity.

Planned Impact

The proposed CDT in NDE will deliver impact (Industrial, Individual and Societal) by progressing research, delivering commercial benefit and training highly employable doctoral-level recruits able to work across industry sectors.

Industry will benefit from this CDT resulting in competitive advantage to the industrial partners where our graduates will be placed and ultimately employed. The global NDE market itself has a value of USD15 billion p.a. [Markets and Markets NDE report January 2017] and is growing at 8% per year. Our partners include 49 companies, such as Airbus, Rolls-Royce, EDF, BAE Systems, SKF and Shell, whose ability to compete relies on NDE research. They will benefit through a doctoral-level workforce that can drive forward industrial challenges such as increased efficiency, safer operation, fewer interruptions to production, reduced wastage, and the ability to support new engineering developments. Our 35 supply chain partners who, for example, manufacture instrumentation or provide testing services and are keen to support the proposed CDT will benefit through graduates with skills that enable them to develop innovative new sensing and imaging techniques and instrumentation. To achieve this impact, all CDT research projects will be co-created with industry with an impact plan built-in to the project. Our EngD students will spend a significant amount of their time working in industry and our PhDs will be encouraged to take up shorter secondments. This exposure of our students to industry will lead to more rapid understanding, for both parties, of the barriers involved in making impact so that plans can be formulated to overcome these.

Individual impact will be significant for the cohorts of students. They will be trained in an extremely relevant knowledge-based field which has a significant demand for new highly skilled doctoral employees. These graduates will rejuvenate an ageing workforce as well as filling the doctoral skills and capability gaps identified by industry during the creation of this CDT. Our industrial partners will be involved in training delivery, e.g. entrepreneurial training to equip our graduates with the skills needed to translate new research into marketed products. Many of the partners are existing collaborators, who have been engaged regularly through the UK Research Centre in NDE (RCNDE), an industry-university collaboration. This has enabled the development of a 5,10 & 20 year vision for research needs across a range of market sectors and the CDT training will focus on these new priorities. Over the duration of the CDT we will actively discuss these priorities with our industry partners to ensure that they are still relevant. This impact will be achieved by a combination co-creation and collaboration on research projects, substantive industrial placements and as well as communication and engagement activities between academic partners and industry. Events aimed at fostering collaboration include an Annual CDT conference, technology transfer workshops, networking events as well as university visits by industrialists and vice versa, forming a close bond between research training and industrial impact. This approach will create lasting impact and ensure that the benefits to students, industry and society are maximised.

Society will benefit from this CDT through the research performed by our CDT graduates that will underpin safety and reliability across a wide range of industries, e.g. aerospace, energy, nuclear, automotive, defence and renewables. As NDE is an underpinning technology it feeds into many of the UK Government's Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Grand Challenges, for example in energy, robotics, manufacturing and space. It is aligned to the EPSRC prosperity outcomes, e.g. the Productive Nation outcome requires NDE during manufacture to ensure quality and the Resilient Nation requires NDE to ensure reliable infrastructure and energy supplies.

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