Sheffield to partner in new £42.5m Dstl Materials Centre of Excellence

Sheffield is delighted to be a Partner in this new advanced materials centre of excellence, and to support the development of exciting new materials for extreme environments

 loading into the FCT for FASTing into billets for forging
  • £42.5m partnership formed with industry and academia to develop ground-breaking new materials
  • New materials developed for extreme environments
  • The University of Sheffield uniquely brings to the partnership world-class expertise in R&D for metals, ceramics, composites, modelling and simulation, manufacturing as well as the opportunity to pilot and upscale new technologies at the AMRC

Sheffield is delighted to be a Partner in this new advanced materials centre of excellence, and to support the development of exciting new materials for the armed forces in areas such as advanced metals processing, novel composites, materials modelling and advanced manufacturing.

Advanced materials are vital to keeping the UK safe – ranging from body armour for our personnel, to the protection of sensitive electronics in satellites from radiation damage and corrosion-resistant submarine components.

Engineers from across Sheffield’s Faculty of Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) will work with industry and academic partners through the new Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) research centre to develop ground-breaking new materials and progress through the technology readiness levels to application.

The £42.5m Defence Materials Centre of Excellence (DMEx) will bring together world-leading UK experts in a national effort to accelerate advances in defence material technology for extreme physical environments.

The DMEx will research, create, and prototype new materials for the armed forces that can survive in the harshest conditions, such as temperatures of 1,000 °C, polar to tropical operations, high impact vibrations, shock, blasts and extreme water depth.

The Henry Royce Institute (Royce) for advanced materials, which operates its hub at the University of Manchester, will lead the DMEx with 23 other partners from academia, industry, and research organisations such as the Catapult Network.

The University of Sheffield is the second largest partner in the Institute, with Royce at Sheffield leading the Advanced Metals Processing research area. Across Materials Science and Engineering, Civil Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, we will bring a wealth of expertise in research and development for metals, ceramics, composites, modelling and simulation, manufacturing, blast and impact research, and dynamics, which will be a key enabler for the Centre of Excellence. 

Defence Minister James Cartlidge said: “These exciting new materials not only fortify the safety of our personnel and assets, but also symbolise our creativity and innovation in the face of defence challenges.

“The research and creation of these materials will secure highly skilled jobs and expertise across the country and cements the UK’s place as a global leader in advanced materials.”

Defence research not only contributes directly to the prosperity of the UK but it also has a strong track record in developing innovations that have dual-use for the benefit of civilian applications. Funding in the Centre will also help us grow the vital skills we need to strengthen the skills base of the UK in this important technology area.

Dstl has pioneered numerous advances in materials working with industry and academic partners. A recent example with the University of Sheffield being the Affordable Titanium to Useable Defence Equipment (ATiTUDE) programme revolutionising the production of titanium plate by reducing the 40 stage process, from titanium ore, down to a two stage recycling process, from titanium waste, resulting in a halving of costs and vast improvement in sustainability.

Titanium alloys offer the potential for transforming defence equipment as they have a similar strength to steel but with approximately half the weight. However, the current cost of titanium is prohibitively expensive for non-aerospace defence uses. Sheffield is a world leader in pioneering Ti recycling technologies, such as the FAST-Forge process ( 

Professor Martin Jackson, Professor of Advanced Metals Processing, Research Area Lead for Royce at the University of Sheffield and the University’s lead for DMEx, said: “We are already a key Dstl partner, working on several existing programmes. This includes a project with both industrial and academic partners using our FAST-Forge technology to create more affordable titanium for defence equipment, with 30-40 per cent weight reduction, whilst maintaining survivability. The capabilities and expertise at the Royce Discovery Centre in Sheffield make us a world leader in sustainability, innovation and delivering the next generation of materials scientists and engineers.

“In Civil Engineering, Professor Andy Tyas is Dstl Research Chair in Blast and Impact Engineering and the team’s Buxton lab is key for various Dstl survivability projects.

“Advanced materials are vital in so many areas. We are looking forward to partnering with Dstl, Royce, industry, Catapults and the other Universities across DMEx to ensure we can undertake cutting edge materials research and development in support of UK growth.”

Professor Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, Vice-President and Head of Engineering at the University of Sheffield, added: “We look forward to working closely with the Centre partners to lead groundbreaking advancements in defence-related advanced materials to support the UK.

“Here at Sheffield, we bring a wealth of interdisciplinary expertise in this area and our University of Sheffield AMRC provides us with a unique position within the DMEx partnership. We are able to go from earliest research and development in the Faculty of Engineering, through to piloting and upscaling this technology at the AMRC.”

With a global reputation for helping companies overcome manufacturing challenges, the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) is ideally placed to provide insight into the industry standards for advanced materials and their application.

The AMRC will support research partners at DMEx to help understand the industry’s manufacturing requirements for application and productionisation, before undertaking the development of new materials – and support manufacture of prototypes to test and validate new material developments.  

Steve Foxley, chief executive officer at the AMRC, said: “The AMRC is delighted to be a part of an expert consortium for the new Defence Materials Centre of Excellence supporting the advancement of material technology.

“AMRC's history of engagement with industrial partners across sectors has supercharged our specialist expertise in various technology areas, including materials science. This, paired with our in-house capabilities and knowledge pool will enable us to contribute significantly to the programme - by way of advising on requirements and demonstrating the research. Together with the University of Sheffield, we have a combined ability to progress from science (TRL 1-3) to application (TRL 4-6).

“With innovation at our heart, the AMRC is dedicated to transforming the UK manufacturing industry. The research taking place at DMEx will not only help the UK stay at the forefront of defence innovation, but will also provide an opportunity to adopt and implement these developments in other manufacturing industries such as aerospace and transportation among others.”

The Centre is set to open later this year.

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