Engineering news

In case you missed it – 21 April 2017

Liz Wells

Our weekly round up of engineering stories you may have missed.

HS2 seeks world-class train builder

The competition for the £2.75 billion contract to design, build and maintain Britain’s next generation of high-speed trains was launched yesterday by HS2.

The successful bidder will work with HS2 to develop 60 state-of-the-art trains to transport passengers across the country on the new high-speed network and onto the existing railway.

The successful bidder will maintain the fleet from the rolling stock depot planned for Washwood Heath in Birmingham. The site will also be home to the HS2 network control centre. Together, these initiatives will create hundreds of skilled jobs.

Gardner Aerospace sold to Chinese firm for £326m

Derby-based Gardner Aerospace, which supplies companies including Rolls-Royce and Airbus, has been sold to a Chinese group for £326 million.

Gardner has been sold to Ligeance Investments, a subsidiary of Shaanxi Ligeance Mineral Resources, by Better Capital.

Gardner, which employs 690 staff in the UK, also has sites in Basildon in Essex, Broughton in Flintshire, Hull, and Pershore in Worcestershire.

Software optimises design of offshore projects

UK engineering company Atkins has teamed up with software firm Aditazz to produce technology to optimise the design and development of offshore wind projects.

The companies say the software will enable users to make faster decisions and reduce cost and risk by allowing them to simulate and optimise all variables of an offshore windfarm simultaneously.

Industry stakeholders are being sought to help to bring the approach to market.

Rolls-Royce names technology chief

Rolls-Royce has appointed Paul Stein as its chief technology officer.

Stein will be responsible for the company’s technology investment and for ensuring its alignment with business strategy.

He joined Rolls-Royce in 2010 as chief scientific officer and then became research and technology director. Previously he was director general of science and technology at the UK Ministry of Defence, responsible for national investment in defence science and technology.

Fusion energy research wins £21m

The Oxford-based Mage Amp Spherical Tokamak facility is to receive £21 million to upgrade its plasma exhaust systems.

The funding will increase the tokamak's plasma heating power from 5MWt to 10MWt and will install a cryoplant for the diverter, as well as improving the plasma fuelling systems. It will also be used to upgrade the plasma control hardware and software, and for adding extra equipment for measuring plasma exhaust data.

The funding – which will be phased from now until 2022 – will come from EUROfusion and the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Hybrid Air Vehicles slams fake news

Hybrid Air Vehicles, the company behind the world's largest airship, has refuted claims that the craft nosedived this week.

Media reports quoted a witness who reported that the £25 million Airlander 10, which is moored at Cardington Airfield in Bedfordshire, broke free of its mooring lines and fell forward.

In a statement the company said: “You may have seen headlines about Airlander ‘nosediving’ and ‘breaking free of its mooring lines’. These are factually incorrect stories and we have identified the source and managed to get the mainstream media to change or remove this story.

“The story came from a picture of us pitching up at the rear by a small amount. This is a normal event which one can expect to see from time to time. It is something that Airlander is designed to do.”

The company said it expects to be flying soon and continues to be on schedule.

MoD launches autonomous systems competition

Businesses can apply for a share of up to £3 million funding for autonomous systems to supply the military frontline.

The UK Ministry of Defence wants to invest in projects that look at ways of using autonomous systems in the ‘last mile’ of the supply chain to frontline military operations.

The competition seeks solutions in three areas: unmanned air and ground load-carrying platforms; technologies that allow load-carrying platforms to operate autonomously; and technologies to autonomously predict, plan, track and optimise re-supply demands from military users.

Anaerobic digestion firm bought

Food-waste-to-renewable-energy company Biogen (UK) has been taken over by infrastructure investment manager Ancala Partners.

Ancala Bioenergy bought Biogen for an undisclosed sum from former joint shareholders Bedfordia Group and Kier Group.

The acquired business operates seven anaerobic digestion plants that recycle 250,000 tonnes of food waste a year, sourced from supermarkets, food producers, the hospitality sector and local authorities. This generates 13MW of renewable energy and a nutrient-rich biofertiliser.

UK Space Agency joins forces with CNES

The UK and French space agencies have agreed to work together to tackle climate change.

The agencies have agreed to cooperate on the MicroCarb satellite mission which will measure sources and sinks of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas driving global warming.

It is the first European mission intended to characterise greenhouse gas fluxes on the Earth’s surface and gauge how much carbon is being absorbed by oceans and forests, the main sinks on the planet.

The mission, scheduled to launch in 2020, will also contribute to international efforts to measure how much carbon dioxide is being emitted by natural processes and human activities.

Parcels firm trials robot deliveries

Courier company Hermes is trialling autonomous, self-driving electric robots to deliver parcels to customers.

The company is working with Starship Technologies, the robotics start-up co-founded by Skype pioneers Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, to test half a dozen of the robots in London. Hermes has carried out 10,000 miles of testing in the capital’s streets, including during Easter week in busy Bermondsey Street in Southwark.

Hewaswater wins biggest contract

Hewaswater Engineering is supplying the steel fabrication for the £60 million state-of-the-art Mayflower water treatment works in Plymouth.

The St Austell-based engineering firm, working alongside Balfour Beatty and Interserve as part of South West Water’s H50 engineering delivery alliance, is manufacturing the main frame, together with scaffolding and cladding, for five buildings in Roborough.

The £1.5 million contract, the most significant piece of work in Hewaswater Engineering’s 70-year history, will use 400 tonnes of steel.

DONG Energy’s first UK employee to retire after 13 years

DONG Energy UK’s chairman Brent Cheshire will retire in June after 13 years’ service.

Cheshire was DONG Energy’s first UK employee in 2004 – the company now has 850 staff.

He will be succeeded by Matthew Wright, who is chief executive of Southern Water.


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