Materials regulation could bring £4bn benefit to UK, says study
24 Apr 2017
Modernising composite materials regulations could bring more than £4 billion worth of benefit to the UK by 2030, according to a new report by the University of Southampton.
The report, which was launched this week at the Royal Academy of Engineering, calls on industry and government to work together to end constraints that inhibit the growth and use of composite materials in the oil and gas, marine and construction sectors.
A major inhibitor to the uptake of composites in new sectors includes regulations, codes and standards that are often inappropriate for composites, the report finds.
This is because they are both explicitly and implicitly based on named materials, such as steel, and do not permit consideration of composite applications despite the strengths and benefits of the materials in many cases, the report adds.
Simon Quinn, director of the university’s Research Institute for Industry, said that in the UK there was currently very limited co-ordination and centralisation of the codes and standards data associated with new composite materials.
He said: “There is neither a coherent development of certified testing facilities, nor a formal process for different sectors to share information and best practice. These factors have reduced productivity, discouraged research and development and innovation, and significantly increased the time to market for new composite products.”
The report recommends that ‘performance’ assessment methods should be adapted to the needs of each sector to make it easier for manufacturers to prove that their materials can perform to the required operational safety and performance standards related to that sector.
The report also calls on the need for one government department to have overall responsibility for regulation, with representation in other departments.
The lead department would work closely with the Composites Leadership Forum (CLF) and would oversee material regulatory policy and management of the centre, would have the responsibility to develop codes and standards, and would authorise both UK and nominated overseas test centres, the report suggests.
The UK's share of the $68bn (£53bn) composite products market is currently £2bn. This is estimated to grow to £12bn by 2030, and could rise to £16bn if growth targets are met, the university said.
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