Multi-million pound international investment to launch new industrial research facility in Leicester

A multi-million pound Research Centre for metal and alloys has been launched in Leicester. It will enable the University of Leicester and partners to work with China for an initial period of five years to bring advanced thinking to metal production.

Representatives from TWI Ltd, the Materials Processing Institute in the UK, University College London,  China Fosun International Limited , China National Innovation Institute of Additive Manufacturing and  Xi'an Jiaotong University, the Department for International Trade, the Chinese Embassy in London, China-Britain Regional Initiative and Leicester City Council Economic Development Team converged on the University of Leicester on 17th July 2018 to celebrate the establishment of the NISCO-UK Research Centre in the Department of Engineering.

Hong Kong listed company Fosun International and Chinese state-owned enterprise Nanjing Iron and Steel Group have a joint venture, NISCO, that involves the manufacturing of ferrous metals and sales of steel materials.

It is a major “challenger” business in the Chinese Iron and Steel Industry with a specific focus on specialised applications including oil & gas pipeline steel, high strength ship plate, wind turbine plate and heat treatment plate. The business is escalating investment in R&D and internationalisation as part of its growth plans.

Negotiation for this initiative started one year ago at an event organised by the British Council in China. In May 2018, at a special ceremony in China marking the 60th anniversary of NISCO, the new Research Centre with the University of Leicester was announced.  Now, after the opening ceremony held in Leicester, the inaugural board meeting was convened in the newly refurbished NISCO Research Centre Offices on Level 5 of the Engineering Tower.

Yixin Huang, Chair of NISCO Board, together with Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of College, Professor Paul Monks, unveiled a plaque to mark the collaboration and Yixin expressed his warm congratulations to the University for the Joint Initiative.

Neil Evans, Trade and Investment Advisor of the Department of International Trade, and Lijuan Zhang from China National Innovation Institute of Additive Manufacturing and Xian Jiaotong University congratulated Prof Hong Dong – Director of the Centre and Royal Academy of Engineering / TWI Research Chair – on this achievement.

Professor Dong said: “This is a tremendous coup for the University bringing our world-renowned expertise to bear on industrial processes for metal processing and production.  The Research Centre will be supported by NISCO at the level of £2.2 million over an initial period of 5 years. The University of Leicester will co invest through non-financial contributions.

“The Centre, in collaboration with TWI Ltd and the Materials Processing Institute, will exploit the UK’s research strengths in metallic materials, manufacturing and informatics, and will deliver funded, high quality, high impact collaborative research.  We aim to achieve world leading status in the area of metallic materials and advanced manufacturing by developing patents and translating technologies for adoption by NISCO. We will create an excellent research environment and become a world leader in our field.”

Leicester’s City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: “This is excellent news and a significant achievement for the University of Leicester. It provides a great opportunity to link industry and academia – utilising the University’s research strengths. We have worked closely with the university and NISCO in supporting the partnership and I am delighted it’s happening in Leicester.”

The collaborative activity of the Centre, jointly funded by Innovate UK and the Chinese Government, has also already secured funding of £500K to develop innovative “Super slab” technology to produce extra thick casting steel slabs for use in harsh environments, with applications for wind turbines and off-shore structures.