Leicester shows its true mettle

A multi-million pound international industrial innovation centre bringing advanced thinking to metal production is to be established at Leicester.

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 businesses is escalating investment in R&D and internationalisation as part of its growth plans.

On 18 May, at a special ceremony in China marking the 60th anniversary of NISCO – with University of Leicester delegates in attendance - it will be announced that a joint NISCO-UK Research Institute is to be established at the University of Leicester in the Department of Engineering.

Professor Hong Dong, Professor of Materials Engineering at the University and Research Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering, is the driving force for the new Centre. He said: “This is a tremendous coup for the University bringing our world-renowned expertise to bear on international industrial processes for metal processing and production.  The Research Centre will be supported by NISCO at £400,000 per annum over an initial period of 5 years. The University of Leicester will co invest through non-financial contributions.

“It will provide a focal point for industrial partnerships conferring significant benefits to the partner including preferential industrial access to equipment; a defined quota of post-graduate student projects; prominent branding of the centre within engineering and wider promotion. Leicester will benefit from collaborative research opportunities, research impact, publications and international profile.”

The Centre’s Collaborative jointly funded by Innovate UK and Chinese Government has also already announced funding of £500K to develop an innovate “Super slab” technology to produce extra thick casting steel slabs for use in harsh environments with applications for wind turbines and marine environments.

A NISCO delegation has already visited the University and now an announcement is to be made on 18 May in Nanjing, along the Yangtze River in China.  The event will be attended by Professor Dong along with Professor Paul Monks, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Science & Engineering.

Professor Monks said: "The NISCO initiative builds on the recent GREAT event in Hong Kong, looking at how UK and Chinese businesses can work together.  This partnership is truly GREAT."