University secures £200k boost for Ceramics sector

"Our focus is to produce graduates with the required technological skills, entrepreneurial and innovative attributes to ensure that the ceramics industry continues to prosper."

Professor David Hawkins, Dean of the School of Creative Arts and Engineering

Staffordshire University has been awarded £200k to support growth and innovation in the ceramics industry.

The University successfully bid for support from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Catalyst Fund, which backs projects that aim to close the skills gap and support the government’s Industrial Strategy through curriculum development.

Professor David Hawkins, Dean of the School of Creative Arts and Engineering explained: “There is an impending skills gap within traditional ceramics due to an ageing workforce and an emerging shortage of trained workers. At the same, ceramic materials are developing and the way people use products is advancing.

“Ceramic elements are used in new, innovative applications such as refractories, parts for jet engines, superconductors, x-ray tubes and implants for hip replacements. It is clear that there is strong need to focus on these new technologies but also make sure that traditional skills aren't lost."

Staffordshire University is among 34 universities and colleges in England awarded a share of £6.1 million by HEFCE to develop new and enhanced higher education courses.

In addition to the £200k funding from HEFCE, Staffordshire University is investing £50k in the project and will work with the British Ceramics Confederation (BCC) in the design of its curriculum together with a range of identified partners including the Advanced Materials Research Innovation and Commercialisation Company (AMRICC), Lucideon Ltd, Bostik UK Ltd and Wade Ceramics Ltd.

Dr Laura Cohen, Chief Executive of the British Ceramic Confederation, said: “Increased Materials Science and Technology provision at Staffordshire University will really help benefit the strong cluster of the local ceramics industry and its supply chain.

“Working with local partners, including Staffordshire University, we've developed a 'ceramic sector deal proposal' to help the industry forge ahead. Skills development is an essential part of this work as we continue to grow and innovate.”

Professor Hawkins added: “Our focus is to produce graduates with the required technological skills, entrepreneurial and innovative attributes to ensure that the ceramics industry continues to prosper. This funding will help us to develop a new provision in ceramics, in particular advanced technical ceramics and materials technology.

Since the 18th century, Stoke-on Trent and Staffordshire has been a global leader in ceramics and Staffordshire University has a long history of delivering courses in this area.”

The ceramics sector is recognised in the Midlands Engine strategy as an area to contribute to regional growth. This is also being addressed through the BCCs Ceramic Sector Deal.

HEFCE Chief Executive, Professor Madeleine Atkins, commented: “We were delighted with the quality of proposals received for this funding call and particularly the impressive levels of engagement between higher education and industry.

“This investment represents important support for the government's Industrial Strategy. The funding will provide new courses and vital skill developments in key industrial sectors across the country, from which students, the workforce and employers all stand to benefit.”

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