A multi-million pound international industrial innovation centre bringing advanced thinking to metal production is to be established at the University of Leicester. Hong Kong listed company, Fosun International and Chinese state-owned enterprise, Nanjing Iron and Steel Group have a joint venture, NISCO, that involves the manufacturing of ferrous metals and sales of steel materials.
It is a major 'challenger' business in the Chinese Iron and Steel Industry with a specific focus on specialised applications including oil & gas pipeline steel, high strength ship plate, wind turbine plate and heat treatment plate. The businesses is escalating investment in R&D and internationalisation as part of its growth plans.
NISCO has a total asset of ¥50bn (£6bn). In 2016 NISCO achieved an operating income of ¥50.2bn and their total profit in 2016 reached ¥1.152bn.
On 18th May, at a special ceremony in China marking the 60th anniversary of NISCO - with University of Leicester delegates in attendance - it will be announced that a joint NISCO-UK Research Institute is to be established at the University of Leicester in the Department of Engineering.
The Chair of NISCO Board, Yixin Huang, from NISCO said: “A NISCO branded Research Centre is to be established at the University of Leicester. The institute will focus on research and development activities in a number of areas where the University of Leicester’s expertise can be deployed in areas of mutual interest. The Institute will be jointly supported by NISCO and the University to support research and potential collaboration with external partners in the UK and Europe.”
Professor Hong Dong, Professor of Materials Engineering at the University and Research Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering is the driving force for the new Centre.
He said: “This is a tremendous coup for the University bringing our world-renowned expertise to bear on international industrial processes for metal processing and production. The Research Centre will be supported by NISCO at £400,000 per annum over an initial period of 5 years. The University of Leicester will co invest through non-financial contributions.
“It will provide a focal point for industrial partnerships conferring significant benefits to the partner including preferential industrial access to equipment; a defined quota of post-graduate student projects; prominent branding of the centre within engineering and wider promotion. Leicester will benefit from collaborative research opportunities, research impact, publications and international profile.”
The technology focus of the NISCO UK Research Centre will be:
Professor Dong said the joint NISCO-UK Research Institute would:
NISCO owns the supporting capacity of 8.5 million tons of steel annually including the production capacity of its key product plate (coil) covering more than 3 million tons per year with integration of iron ore mining and dressing, iron making, steel making, steel rolling and steel processing.
Professor Dong added: “The Centre will exploit UK’s research strengths in metallic materials, manufacturing and informatics, and will deliver funded, high quality, high impact collaborative research. We aim to achieve world leading status in the area of metallic materials and advanced manufacturing. By developing patents and translating technologies for adoption by NISCO we will create an excellent research environment and become world leaders in our field.”
The Centre’s Collaborative jointly funded by Innovate UK and Chinese Government has also already announced funding of £500k to develop a 'Super slab' technology to produce extra thick casting steel slabs for use in harsh environments with applications for wind turbines and marine environments.
A NISCO delegation has already visited the University and now an announcement is to be made on 18th May in Nanjing, along the Yangtze River in China. The event will be attended by Professor Dong along with Professor Paul Monks, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Science & Engineering.
Professor Monks said: “Applying cutting-edge technological innovation to the next generation of materials is critical to a whole range of real-world problems from medicine to buildings. The NISCO centre will develop new metallic materials and next generation manufacturing methodology. It is exciting to be working in a global partnership bringing together the best of UK and China together. This will drive in the longer term jobs and growth in both China and the UK.”