At the start of this project, Edinburgh Innovations’ workshops allowed Edinburgh academics to demonstrate to Babcock how they could apply their research to help the business overcome a number of challenges. Such a strong showcase of academic expertise from a range of disciplines (led by Principal Investigator Professor Conchúr Ó Brádaigh) convinced Babcock that meaningful engagement with academia would bring value to the business. When the University proposed the siting of a new state-of-the-art test centre at the company’s premises in Rosyth, Babcock recognised it as the exciting and large-scale collaborative opportunity the company was looking for to establish Rosyth as a hub of research-led advanced manufacturing innovation.
Following this Babcock hosted two Edinburgh University academic secondments (funded by the EPSRC IAA) at their manufacturing facility in Rosyth. Through his secondment work, data architect Dr Nick Brown effectively demonstrated the value of exploiting Babcock’s vast data resources to reduce operational costs, improve time to results, and underpin the company’s technical strategy. Professor Andy Sherlock’s secondment used applications of new augmented reality technologies to allow the company to visualise engineering and manufacturing challenges.
Both secondments have had a significant impact on Babcock’s digital transformation strategy, a process that will ensure the company continues to operate efficiently, sustainably and competitively.
Over time the partnership has developed, resulting in the opening of a multi-million-pound state-of-the-art composite structures research facility, FastBlade, that is an international centre of innovation in the research and testing of composite materials and structures for a variety of industries: tidal energy, marine, transport, nuclear and aerospace.
The FastBlade facility is funded to the value of £4.1 million by ESPRC and the University of Edinburgh, with Babcock the principal engineering designer. With its novel technology, it is the first facility in the world to carry out large-scale accelerated testing of tidal blades with regenerative hydraulics, able to simulate real environments and therefore save on time and costs, reduce risk and improve safety.
FastBlade will help meet requirements to develop digital skills in the region (in partnership with Fife College) as set by the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal and is part of a transformational programme approach to skills – going from school leavers through to further and higher education. The City Region Deal also aims to increase research-based collaboration between universities and industry.
FastBlade sits at the Arrol Gibb Innovation Campus at Rosyth, home to large-scale advanced engineering and manufacturing focussed on the marine and energy sectors.
Babcock’s ongoing collaboration with the University of Edinburgh has catalysed the company’s technological transformation and put it on a trajectory that will establish Babcock as a focal point for large-scale manufacturing innovation. The partnership is focused on investing in the next generation of engineers, and with the next phase of its ambitious strategy in development, the partnership continues to go from strength to strength.
For us, this really is a great industrial partnership. Our engineers working alongside the University’s renowned academics have shown what the art of the possible is, in engineering and in working together… I know we are creating something that isn’t just a great opportunity for us, it will have real benefit for all the companies using the facility in years to come."
Neil Young, Technology Director, Babcock
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