University of Liverpool to lead new Virtual Engineering Centre

The VEC will support the region’s aerospace industry

The University of Liverpool is to lead a new centre for virtual engineering at Daresbury Laboratory, following the confirmation of a £5.3 million investment.

The Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC), which will be financed by £2.5 million from the Northwest European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), £1.18 million from the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and £1.64 million from the University of Liverpool, will catalyse virtual engineering activities and joint research programmes across the sector and between industry and academia.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is hosting the centre at Daresbury Laboratory and is providing £200,000 of support through access to its large computational science and engineering machines and to its scientists’ expertise in specialist software development.

Virtual Engineering (VE) involves integrated product/process modelling and the creation of virtual prototypes and will form a critical foundation for all future business in the aerospace sector. Major aerospace companies are committed to VE because it provides a cost effective method of presenting future options to the customer and capturing their requirements. Despite this and the associated VE developments, integrated VE tools and techniques have not been successfully implemented across the whole lifecycle and throughout the supply chain, presenting a major barrier to organisations adopting the technology.

The VEC aims to address this through a public-private sector partnership bringing together the University of Liverpool, the Science and Technology Facilities Council at Daresbury, the Northwest Aerospace Alliance and its members and crucially, the prime contractors who see the development of the VEC as critical to the survival of the region’s aerospace cluster. BAE Systems has also made a commitment to provide facilities and resources to take the project forward.

The centre will act as:

“¢ A physical virtual engineering centre which will contain ‘best practice’ virtual engineering facilities that display integrated, interactive simulation and modelling software across the full range of virtual capabilities.
“¢ A research partnership that will add value to existing research activities within the region by providing a commercially relevant focus.
“¢ A knowledge exchange centre to increase awareness and give potential users an opportunity to ‘try before they buy’ so that they can become more confident of the business advantages that can accrue from using VE tools.
“¢ An educational centre to help meet the current skills shortages in VE in the UK.

It will explore solutions to many important engineering issues such as meeting the upcoming EU requirement to cut airliner fuel consumption by 50% by exploring improvements to the design of aeroplanes and their engines.

Professor Gareth Padfield, Head of the School of Engineering at The University of Liverpool and Chief Scientific Officer to the VEC said:

“The use of high fidelity virtual prototypes of future aircraft, in synthetic operating and manufacturing environments, is becoming critical to getting designs right first time – a goal that the aerospace industry strives for.  The VEC regional partnership between academia and industry will act as a catalyst for the supply chain to achieve this goal for the next generation of aviation systems.

John Flamson, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Development at the University of Liverpool, said:

“The Virtual Engineering Centre reflects the University’s commitments to knowledge exchange and the development of strong academic-industry collaborations. Together with our partners from the public and private sectors, we have developed a centre which will translate our world-class research in aerospace engineering from the University and into industry.

“The centre will bring tangible impact to prime aerospace companies and to the region’s SME community, demonstrating our ability to produce cutting-edge research which has far-reaching economic and social benefits. We are delighted to have received investment from NWDA and ERDF and look forward to delivering another transformational project for the region.”

Steven Broomhead, NWDA Chief Executive, said:

“The region’s aerospace sector is the largest in the UK, contributing almost £7 billion per annum to the Northwest economy. In order to drive further growth, aerospace companies must continue to innovate and embrace new technologies to improve efficiency and remain globally competitive.

Adopting virtual engineering technologies can create significant advantages for aerospace companies and the Virtual Engineering Centre will be a catalyst for a cultural shift to ensure that this important technology is exploited to its full potential across the industry.”

Notes to editors:

The University of Liverpool is a member of the Russell Group of leading research-intensive institutions in the UK. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organisations valued at more than £93 million annually 

The Northwest Regional Development Agency works to deliver economic success in England’s Northwest by building the competitiveness of its businesses, people and places. Utilising our technical expertise and strategic influence, we help the region’s 250,000+ businesses to develop and grow, as well as supporting international trade and encouraging inward investment.

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