Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Materials engineering – composites

Understanding, modelling and processing composites with respect to the properties, performance, behaviour and development of novel materials.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

This area encompasses understanding, modelling and processing of composites with respect to the properties and material behaviour and development of novel materials.

This is a world-leading research area characterised by outstanding work linking fundamental engineering through to the Catapults and industry. We will support world-class expertise that underpins sustainable growth aligned to key sectors such as:

  • automotive – for example, composites for high-performance vehicles
  • aerospace
  • defence
  • rail
  • construction
  • marine
  • oil and gas
  • energy – for example, using composites in turbine blades for renewable energy.

The community will therefore need to establish and nurture interdisciplinary links addressing the microstructure-processing-performance triangle.

Research opportunities will focus on reducing material demand through resource efficiency and reducing product development lead times through a greater understanding of the microstructure-processing-performance triangle. The community should seek to establish and nurture links with researchers and the manufacturing sector. This includes linking to the manufacturing technologies research area and focusing on the circular economy, reducing energy demand for material production, high-throughput manufacture, and challenges surrounding composite reuse or recycling.

There is an opportunity to bring together advances in modelling and experimentation to increase the rate of discovery and development of new materials. The community should work towards understanding these challenges and establishing solutions.

Future design solutions need to be multi-material, so research should address the challenges of joining technologies, as well as hybrid materials. Developing capability in assessing the life cycle, and demonstrating environmental benefits, remains strategically important, and research should address sustainability challenges surrounding recycling and end-of-life issues.

The community should work to develop standards and assurance regimes that enable new sectors to adopt composites. As composites use becomes more important (for example multifunctional composite materials for energy storage, and realistic artificial limbs), the community should seek out research opportunities in the energy, electronics and healthcare sectors.

Our aims

Support the community to connect UK research

We will do this through a cross-disciplinary approach, researching in response to the advanced materials strategy, and creating links with the Henry Royce Institute. A key challenge is to sustain and develop interdisciplinary relationships, enhancing a portfolio that addresses novel research at the interface between engineering, physical sciences and mathematical sciences.

Encourage research that links through to other areas

Examples include:

  • performance and inspection of mechanical structures and systems
  • manufacturing technologies
  • continuum mechanics
  • numerical analysis
  • functional ceramics and inorganics
  • materials for energy applications
  • nuclear fission
  • energy storage
  • resource efficiency
  • materials engineering – metals and alloys, and materials engineering – ceramics.

Work with stakeholders to nurture talent

We want to provide the next generation of skilled researchers for the academic and industrial sectors in the UK, from PhD to early-career level. It is essential that this talent is nurtured and retained in later career stages, ensuring that academic expertise is preserved following the completion of studentships.

Why we're doing it

Research funding in this area, as a percentage of the entire EPSRC portfolio, has maintained its value, although the shape of the portfolio has changed. There has been a three-fold increase in the value of fellowship investment, with seven fellows now supported. This research area is characterised by centres of critical mass throughout the UK, which are internationally leading. It also benefits from world-class training as a result of the 2013 centre for doctoral training funding opportunity and an increase in universities’ doctoral training partnership allocations.

The formation of the Henry Royce Institute and critical innovation drivers such as the High Value Manufacturing Catapult will have a strong influence on the research landscape, so strategic alignment and integration across the landscape will be important. We recognise this research area’s contribution to national strategic needs, including industrial strategies for the aerospace, automotive, defence, transport, construction and energy sectors. This research area has the potential to disrupt and transform these sectors and is critical to sustaining advanced materials research in the UK.

EPSRC and government interventions have significantly increased access to world-class facilities across the UK. Examples of EPSRC and government interventions include:

Recent investments (for example the Henry Royce Institute and the National Research Facility for Laboratory X-ray Computed Tomography) will increase this further.

Multidisciplinary research is substantial in this area, enabling researchers to address an array of associated challenges. There are strong connections to other research areas and there is still a need to sustain and improve these links.

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for materials engineering – composites.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Who to contact

Last updated: 22 December 2022

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