IHBC update: ‘Urgent support needed in bid for c.50 doctoral studies on timber & construction – Responses to Bangor University before 15 July’

treesA university consortium bid, relating to timber in construction, aims to provide EngD and PhD places for 50 students starting over the next 5 years, part funded by EPSRC, and urgently needs letters from SME’s demonstrating need, so IHBC members and networks with interests in timber related design / conservation work are encouraged to submit letters of support and need to Graham Ormondroyd, Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2DG or g.ormondroyd@bangor.ac.uk, by Sunday 15 July 2018.

Tim Belden, former lead at Timber specialist  TRADA  and now a doctoral candidate, said: ‘I know from my own time working on windmills and watermills, this was the type of opportunity I had been looking for. So I would imagine this would be of interest to at least a few of your members.’

The bid joint leads write in their ‘Outline proposal for an EPSRC Doctoral Training Centre’:

Tomorrow’s timber: innovation and value from future forests
As the growth of timber use in construction develops at an increasing rate, the demand for greater understanding of both solid timber and engineered timber products also grows accordingly. The timber industry has been saying for many years that this training is essential to push forwards the use of this truly sustainable material. In recent years we have seen structural timber reach ever greater heights. The 18 storey Brock Commons in Vancouver is currently the tallest hybrid timber building. London has two 10 storey buildings, the Cube and Dalston Lane. The 10-storey development at Dalston Lane is made entirely of cross laminated timber (CLT), from the external, party and core walls, right through to the floors and stairs. It weighs a fifth of a concrete building of its equivalent size, and during construction, the number of deliveries to the site were reduced by a staggering 80%. However, engineered timber is not just emerging as a challenger to concrete on the residential and industrial building front, there being many supermarket developments in Glulam, or CLT.

A multi storey carpark for a car production plant has been built for vehicle storage, with the decks being made from 5 ply CLT. It consists of two, 3 level units, 9,600m2per storey. A CLT structure was a solution to poor ground conditions, with the timber structure reducing weight, leading to lighter foundations and reduced costs in piling, as well as being quicker and using more sustainable materials.

The need for greater understanding of timber within the design and engineering communities has never been more critical. Timber and engineered timber materials are being utilised to minimise cost and time on site, whilst increasing the environmental benefits.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences.

To help the design and engineering communities the Edinburgh Napier University, Bangor University and the University of Surrey propose to establish an EPSRC part funded Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) called ‘Tomorrow’s timber – innovation and value from future forests’. The purpose of this DTC is to train a new generation of highly-skilled, multi-disciplinary scientists and engineers. Emergent technology, techniques and research related to wood science and technology will be employed to meet the changing needs of the UK’s timber industries (and end users of wood products) into the next decade and beyond.

What will industry get out of being part of the DTC
Partnering in the DTC will give the industrial partners unparalleled access to cutting edge research within the area of timber. Depending on the level of interaction this may either be research for the good of the industry as a whole, through to a research project being undertaken to solve a specific industrial problem with the student been embedded within the company. Again, depending of the type of interaction, the industrial partner will have the chance to own, or licence, the IP delivered from the projects. At all levels of interaction, the industrial partners will have access to the academic timber community through networking events and social media and this will help to develop a coherence within the community.

More subtly, having a student within your workplace leads to a vast amount of knowledge transfer to your other employees.

Training Programme
A key component of any doctoral training college is the integrated training programme. We foresee a comprehensive training programme that encompasses a broad mix of professional skills training (research skills; project management; project finances; intellectual property; data management; leadership and teamwork; entrepreneurship; report writing; presentation skills; e-meetings; ethics; etc) and subject specific skills (wood science and technology; materials characterisation; mechanical testing and properties; engineering design; manufacturing; modelling methods; forest industries). This package will comprise 15-20% of the total project time and be delivered in a two-yearly rotation in a variety of formats including block-release residential training schools; extended research workshops; peer learning; industry days and site visits. It will exploit existing opportunities where these exist, but also develop bespoke materials to engender cohort cohesion.

Professional placements
In addition, we expect all students to undertake a period of professional placement and to contribute to a specific knowledge-transfer CPD programme taking knowledge from the research projects out to sponsoring industries. Student will be guided through the CEng / CSci accreditation process….

Project formats
EPSRC offers doctoral research training support in a variety of guises. We envisage mixed mode project delivery comprising:

TRL 1-2: A cohort of University based PhD students contributing to a managed programme of freely shared collaborative work spanning all 5 research themes. Longitudinal studies are especially favoured. Project length 3.5 years.

TRL 2-3: A series of individual University based PhD students working towards the over-arching goals of the programme but with a direct link to the research needs of the sponsoring company. The student is likely to spend extended periods of a few months with the sponsor. Project length 3.5 years.

TRL 3-5: A series of individual industry based (75% time) EngD students working on an agreed research project of immediate relevance and interest to the sponsor. The students return to the University for training and to use facilities as required (25%). Project length 4 years.

Consortium membership

Institution Lead Department
Edinburgh Napier University Dan Ridley-Ellis School of Engineering and the Built Environment
Bangor University Graham Ormondroyd BioComposites Centre
University of Surrey Peter McDonald Department of Physics

Industry funding contribution
The total project costs are estimated to be in the region of £3.5 M. EPSRC will expect industry to fund approximately 30% of the costs dependent on project type. A scale of industrial contributions dependent on project type is proposed.

What the universities consortium need now is backing from SME’s to support the need for the venture.
A letter of support, no more than a side of A4, indicating that you would be interested in supporting one or more students at any time starting over the next 5 years, will help us move this process forwards. Your letter of support should indicate as minimum (i) why you are interested, this preferably is because you company wants to upskill, get involved in research or ultimately recruit students and (ii) state that you ‘expect’ to support at least one student, for 4 years within the total project of 8 years, at a level as indicated in table (TRL 1-2, TRL 2-3 or TRL 3-5). You should actually put the £xx pA in the letter in order for your support to help us with the EPRSC. Please note though, that ‘Expect’ is good enough at this stage, you are not officially signed in to an agreement.

This is a unique chance to prove to government and EPSRC that the industry needs designers and engineers who understand timber.

We would be extremely grateful if you could get this letter of support to Graham Ormondroyd at the Bangor University, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2DG or g.ormondroyd@bangor.ac.uk, by Sunday the 15th July 2018.

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