The Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC), to be financed by £2.5 million from the Northwest European Regional Development Fund, £1.18 million from the Northwest Regional Development Agency and £1.64 million from Liverpool University, will catalyse virtual engineering activities and joint research programmes across the sector and between industry and academia.
Virtual Engineering (VE) involves integrated product/process computer modelling and the creation of virtual prototypes. Aerospace companies are committed to VE because it provides a cost-effective method of presenting future options to customers and capturing their requirements. Despite this demand and the associated developments in virtual engineering technologies, integrated VE tools and techniques have not been successfully implemented across the whole lifecycle and throughout the supply chain in the aerospace sector.
The VEC aims to address this through a public-private sector partnership bringing together Liverpool University, the Science and Technology Facilities Council at Daresbury, the Northwest Aerospace Alliance and its members and their prime contractors. One of these, BAE Systems, has also made a commitment to provide facilities and resources to take the project forward.
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 local economy. “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.”
The centre will act as a showcase of best practice virtual engineering; a research partnership that will add value to existing research activities within the region by providing a commercial focus; a knowledge exchange centre to increase awareness and give potential users an opportunity to test VE tools so that they can become more confident of the business advantages of using them; and an education centre to train people in virtual engineering.
The centre will look for answers to many important engineering issues, such as meeting the upcoming EU requirement to cut airline fuel consumption by 50 per cent, by exploring improvements to the design of aeroplanes and aeroengines.
John Flamson, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Development at the University of Liverpool, said the centre reflects the university’s commitment to knowledge exchange and the development of strong academic-industry collaborations. “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.”