Work begins on multi-million pound world-leading composites research centre


Work is expected to start on a world first pioneering technology plant that is expected to kick start the region in a huge economic and employment boost in Rosyth.

The Fastblade plant is a world first using pioneering technology to test new materials new materials in large-scale structures such as tidal blades, plane components and bridge sections.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Edinburgh University funded the £4.1m site  in Rosyth, Fife, with Babcock at the principal engineering designer.

A team of Babcock engineers will begin construction of Fastblade’s 75 tonne structural reaction frame early next month, and will begin fit-out of the new facility, based at Babcock’s Rosyth site near Edinburgh.

The first major engineering works on Fastblade will begin in July, as part of an industry-academic partnership between the University of Edinburgh and Babcock International Group.

Initial construction is expected to be complete by December.

It will initially be used for lifetime fatigue testing of renewable energy tidal turbine blades, using pioneering technology which will be the first of its kind in the world

It is being hailed by bosses as an international centre of innovation in the research and testing of composite materials and structures for a various industries such as marine.

The site will use cutting edge digital and hydraulic technology systems developed by the University to be more energy efficient as well.

Concept for the Fastblade research facility
The concept design for the Fastblade research facility

It will offer immediate benefits for product developers, with savings on time and costs, reducing risk and improving safety.

Professor Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, Head of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering, said: “This collaboration is a real opportunity to develop the next generation of engineers that industry will need and will be a resource for apprentices and engineering students to capture real-time data from industrial-scale equipment in the classroom.

“This is a significant milestone towards this unique facility opening for business to the global composites manufacturing market. The reaction frame is the backbone of the Fastblade system, holding clients’ structures in place in order to carry out research and testing.”

Neil Young, a Technology Director at Babcock, said the partnership is about technology, innovation and investing in the next generation of engineers.

Young said: “Babcock likes to work in innovative, collaborative ventures for long-term value and this is a fantastic example of that. We’re bringing together the best engineering minds with technology innovation from the University of Edinburgh.”

“We have optimised the facility design in partnership with the University and the next step is the physical build of the facility which, when complete, will be a world-class centre of innovation in composite testing, as well as a fatigue test facility for developers.”