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The advantages and challenges of linking industrial needs with academic research

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This paper describes the advantages and challenges of an organisation that links industrial needs with academic research. The successful UK Research Centre for NDE (RCNDE) was established in 2003 as a partnership between various large industrial users of NDE, the UK Government university funding body (EPSRC) and six leading UK universities.

During the 1980s and 1990s, industrial organisations reduced the size of or closed their NDE research laboratories and concentrated on shorter-term development activities to further their core businesses. At this time, the links between industry and universities regarding NDE were often weak; industrial needs were seen as immediate whilst academic timescales too protracted. The result was poor delivery and/or understanding of academic output and a correspondingly slow uptake of new research ideas.

During the 1990s, major industrial users of NDE and universities began to develop bilateral arrangements to overcome the barriers to effective cooperation. Recognising the wide range of industries with a need for high-quality NDE research, discussions instigated by the UK Government in 20012 led to the creation of RCNDE in April 2003. Since that time, industrial and university involvement has steadily grown and the success of the partnership led to a second phase of public funding between 20082014. The core membership now includes 16 major industrial companies and six universities, with a growing number of other universities and companies also participating.

From its inception, RCNDE has emphasised the importance of exploiting the research outcomes and a system based on Technology Readiness Levels is now being used to facilitate the technology transfer process. This approach helps all parties to understand the full range of activities which need to be achieved before new research can be translated into commercial products or processes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1 Graduated from Cardiff University in 1976 where his tutor, Professor John Taylor, introduced him to NDT. He joined Rolls-Royce plc that year and has worked continually in the NDE Laboratory with roles in technique development, training and technology acquisition. He was instrumental in the creation of the RCNDE, ensuring firm links with the University sector. He is the Associate Fellow for NDE at Rolls-Royce and a Visiting Professor at Nottingham University.

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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