The findings of the Materials Innovation and Growth Team (MatIGT) have been presented in a report launched at the DTI Conference Centre on 8 March. Wyn Jones, Chairman of both Alcan UK and the MatIGT, opened proceedings by reminding the audience that the IGT had been given the responsibility for finding a UK materials strategy with ‘10-to-20 year horizons'.
One of the challenges facing the IGT team was the lack of statistics available on the contribution of materials to the UK economy. The report says companies producing and processing materials have an annual turnover of £200 billion, making a contribution of 15% to the country's GDP. The IGT team took a supply chain approach, says Jones, and through its recommendations aims ‘to make the UK the best place to do materials business'. In order to achieve this, a new body has been set up - Materials UK.
According to MatIGT vice-chairman Steve Garwood of Rolls Royce, Materials UK will be the mechanism that delivers the IGT findings. It is ‘not a look back organisation' he stresses, but one that intends to look forward. Among the key issues identified in the report are uncertainties in the availability of energy and raw materials, the threats and opportunities posed by globalisation, sustainability and energy efficiency, innovation and the need for more value-added products to reach the market, and the enhancement of existing materials through design.
The report proposes action under five broad headings. These are
■ Knowledge Transfer - Greater efficiency within the whole materials industry is to be achieved through activities such as the Materials KTN, the promotion of best practice, sector technology roadmaps, and a lifecycle analysis database, which will be known as the Materials Property Validation Centre (MPVC).
■ Raising awareness - To ensure the supply of properly trained materials personnel for the future, an input into schools curricula is planned, as well as more publicity for career opportunities, work experience and bursaries.
■ Accelerating innovation - A register of assets is to be established through Materials Assets Connect, along with phased funding and design-led innovation.
■ Improving skills and knowledge - Short courses are to be developed and strategic international alliances established.
■ Better business environment - The aim is to help industry use regulation for commercial advantage, encourage collaboration throughout the supply chain for maximum productivity and profitability, and for the government to set standards for intelligent procurement. This will involve raising the awareness of regulation, analysis of supply chains, and the use of public procurement to drive sustainability and innovation.
For a copy of the report, visit Materials UK.