The Future Metrology Hub, funded by the EPSRC (Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council) and industry, is the only one of its kind in the UK. The rapid evolution of manufacturing makes the role of metrology – the science of measurement – more vital than ever, as firms demand greater accuracy and efficiency in their increasingly complex and automated production processes. A new £40 million research centre based at the University of Huddersfield will play a crucial role in what has been dubbed the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The Future Metrology Hub’s vision is to transform the UK’s manufacturing performance by delivering significant improvements in the speed, accuracy and cost of measurement. The Hub is aligned with the UK Government’s industrial strategy to ensure that the UK becomes more competitive and productive.
The seven-year Future Metrology Hub, which receives £10 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), with extra funding from universities and business partners, was officially launched in September 2017 at an event attended by more than 130 scientists, engineers, academics and industrialists from around the UK.
They heard a sequence of talks from key figures, including the Hub’s Director, Professor Dame Xiangqian (Jane) Jiang, who provided an overview of its work. She said that metrology is critical to modern manufacturing and pledged that the technology she and her colleagues develop in the lab – such as sensors and artificial intelligence control systems – would be geared up for use in the real world of industry.
Professor Jiang stressed the need for inter-disciplinary collaboration across a wide range of sectors. “That is what the Hub is all about,” she said, and added that its goal was a transformation in UK manufacturing performance.
The University of Huddersfield – home to a world-renowned Centre for Precision Technologies – is at the centre of the Future Metrology Hub. Its “spokes” are at the universities of Sheffield, Bath and Loughborough, which will contribute research in specialised areas.
The National Physical Laboratory, which has its regional base at the University of Huddersfield, is also a collaborator, and there are 29 industrial partners, including leading firms such as Rolls-Royce, Jaguar Land Rover, GKN Aerospace, BAE Systems, Siemens, Reliance Precision and Carl Zeiss, all represented at the launch.
Another key partner is the UK-based multi-national Renishaw, which has collaborated with the University of Huddersfield for a quarter of a century. Its Group Engineering Director, Professor Geoff McFarland, gave the keynote address at the launch day.
Renishaw has more than 1,500 patents and patents pending, said Professor McFarland. “But we don’t have all the answers and there are more and more questions. And that is why we are involved with this wonderful Hub.”
However, the skillset required of modern metrologists was incredibly rare, and traditional learning on the job is no longer viable in complex modern factories. Therefore, the training of metrologists would be a vital role for the new Hub, said the Professor.