Composites UK addresses legislation, skills and sustainability challenges

EuCIA is delighted to welcome Composites UK as a new National Member. We spoke to Chris Taylor, Composites UK's Chairman, about the challenges and opportunities facing the UK composites industry and the association's decision to join EuCIA.

 

As the trade association for the UK composites industry, Composites UK's mission is to encourage growth and development of the industry, promoting the best practice use of composite materials. Its aim is to bring companies throughout the supply chain together creating partnerships, as well as to create a unified voice to drive the industry forward.

Founded in 1989, the association has grown significantly over recent years and today supports nearly 350 members. Taylor believes this success is due to a number of factors.

“The association has grown together with the composites industry in the UK. It started as a small activity supported within another company and now it’s a fully staffed, independent business with 346 members. We cover a very broad spectrum of the composites industry, from materials suppliers, through the smaller manufacturers which we are very keen to continue to support, right up to larger organisations. The association’s value increases year on year as legislation becomes more complex and the industry needs to influence that legislation. We hold a lot of events, both regionally and sectorially, to disseminate as much information as possible, and we have a number of working groups on specific areas. We’ve also been focusing effort into adding value to a wider potential membership.”

In addition to legislation, Taylor sees workforce development as a major challenge facing UK composites businesses. A recent workshop, organised on behalf of the Composites Leadership Forum [the organisation tasked with delivering the government’s 2016 UK Composites Strategy], discussed the predicted skills gap and available training options.

“We have dedicated board members responsible for directing, influencing and disseminating skills requirements," he notes. "According to the UK government's Composites Strategy, the UK has the opportunity to grow its current £2.3 billion composite product market to £12 billion by 2030, and the need for people to support that growth is becoming increasingly important. We have to create that talent pool.”

Composites UK also believes sustainability is key to the future development of the industry. The association launched a Sustainability Sub-Group in 2017 which aims to overcome challenges in composites recycling, incorporate more bio-based composites into components in the specification stages, and encourage consideration of environmental impact at the design stage as well as an understanding of products' impact through life.

“Both as a business owner and a Composites UK board member I have to say sustainability is absolutely vital, and a topic we need to put increasing focus on," says Taylor. "It’s one of the areas composites needs to address in order to compete more effectively with other manufacturing materials."

Despite the uncertainties presented by Brexit, Taylor is positive about the prospects for the UK composites industry in the global market.

"We work closely with the Composite Leadership Forum, and we see substantial opportunities for UK companies. Many of our members are reporting strong results and we expect quite considerable growth in the UK composites business, with Asia becoming an increasingly interesting market."

And as to why Composites UK has decided to join EuCIA at this time?

"In answering that you can’t really ignore Brexit. We need to have a voice in the decisions taken beyond the UK and being part of a European organisation is now more important and more relevant than ever. Europe is a big market for the UK and to be part of that, and able to influence it, is crucial."

 

Chris Taylor was elected Chairman of Composites UK in April 2018. He is Managing Director of Axon Automotive, developer of the Axontex patented beam technology designed for structural components in automotive applications.