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"Fantastic week" for Welsh science as First Minister opens power testing centre

10 October 2007

Wales’ First Minister, the Rt Hon Rhodri Morgan today opened Cardiff University’s Gas Turbine Research Centre, capping what he described as "a fantastic week" for Welsh science and engineering.

The Minister formally opened the Gas Turbine Research Centre (GTRC) which will test for cleaner and more efficient ways of generating power for electricity and aircraft at the ECM2 engineering complex at Margam, Port Talbot.

The launch follows Monday’s award of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine to Professor Sir Martin Evans of Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences. Meanwhile, Biobank Cymru was launched at Cardiff University with the aim of building up a massive database which will help improve the health of generations to come. Wales has also received a boost from RWE npower, with the announcement of an initial £8.4M investment to create the UK’s first Carbon Dioxide Capture Power Plant at Aberthaw Power Station.

Mr Morgan said: "It’s been a fantastic week for Science, Technology and Engineering in Wales.

"These are four major advances. It makes me very proud, not just as First Minister, but also in my role as Science Minister."

The Gas Turbine Research Centre consists of two large-scale combustion rigs, which can test a wide variety of alternative fuels at high flowrate, temperature and pressure. A unique 3D cooled traversing probe and an optical (quartz) combustor with advanced laser systems allow researchers to take detailed measurements of pollutant formation within the combustor, enabling assessment of prototype designs or combustion model predictions.

The Centre will conduct research into more efficient fuel utilisation, alternative fuels and reduction of pollutants such as Nitrogen Oxide and fine exhaust particulates. The two rigs were donated by international technology company QinetiQ, who selected Cardiff University’s School of Engineering ahead of several other EU contenders.

Rhodri Morgan added: "This world class facility is another example of how Wales is becoming a hub for high-value, high-tech research and development. It also means that young people don’t have to leave Wales to find an exciting and challenging career in the science and technology sector.

"I am very excited by the way companies with a world-wide reputation for technological excellence are recognising the value of working with our universities to examine new frontiers in science and research and development.

"As the Welsh research cluster expands and the drive to reduce carbon emissions becomes more important, these facilities will be a ‘win-win’ for Wales and a ‘win-win’ for the world and its environment."

Work is already under way on research contracts at the facility. These include a £140,000 EU programme in association with QinetiQ and 20 other EU partners to test alternative liquids and the gaseous fuels produced from biomass and waste gases. Another industrially-sponsored programme is studying the formation of environmental pollutants such as Nitrogen Oxides, Carbon Monoxide and unburned hydrocarbons within the combustor. The Centre now welcomes projects with other companies and organisations on a commercial basis.

Director of the Centre, Professor Phil Bowen of the School of Engineering, said: "Gas turbines generate something like 20 per cent of the world’s power through aircraft or electrical power generation. T here are only a few combustion research centres like this worldwide, and the Gas Turbine Research Centre offers some unique features. We hope to provide significant research and development support to the international Energy sector as its strives to meet demanding global challenges ahead, and along with such facilities as the General Electric gas turbine power plant at Baglan Bay, establish South Wales as a hub for cleaner power industries."

Dr Simon Bennett, managing director, QinetiQ commercial business, said: "We selected Cardiff University as the recipient of the two combustion rigs because of its expertise in combustion and optical measuring techniques. The rigs already have a number of world firsts to their credit and we are pleased to be working with the university to help shape future gas turbine development."

The cost of creating the new facility was been supported by a £3.85M donation from Objective 1, European Regional Development Fund, secured through the Welsh European Funding Office and £350,000 from the Welsh Assembly Government. The University also received around £600,000 from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales for a new viewing section for the equipment.


Notes to Editors:

A picture is attached showing the First Minister inspecting a high speed camera inside the Gas Turbine Research Centre. Left to right are GTRC manager Steve Morris, the First Minister, the Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University, Dr David Grant, and GTRC director Professor Phil Bowen.

Cardiff University

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities. Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, the University today combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning. Cardiff is a member of the Russell Group of Britain’s leading research universities.

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QinetiQ’s donation to Cardiff University is part of a wider programme of university collaboration that includes partnerships with 12 leading British universities. QinetiQ (pronounced ki net ik as in 'kinetic energy') is a leading international defence and security technology business that was formed in July 2001 from the UK Government's Defence Evaluation & Research Agency (DERA). QinetiQ has approximately 13,500 employees, who deliver technology-based services and exploit QinetiQ's strengths in technology research by selling systems solutions, products and licences to government and commercial customers in a spectrum of defence, security and related commercial markets. For more information see:

Welsh European Funding Office

WEFO is responsible for administering Structural Funds in Wales. Wales has been allocated a total of €2.233 billion (over £1.5 billion) by the European Union for the period 2000-2006. With match funding from a variety of public, private and voluntary sources the Structural Funds are worth €4.795 billion (over £3.2 billion) in Wales. WEFO is responsible for encouraging new projects, appraising and making decisions on applications, paying grants and ensuring that proper procedures are in place by those organisations in receipt of funds. It is also responsible for publicising the effect of the Funds in Wales. WEFO is part of the Welsh Assembly Government's Enterprise, Innovation and Networks Department.

Welsh Assembly Government Knowledge Exploitation Fund

The Knowledge Exploitation Fund (KEF) provides financial assistance to enable Higher and Further Education Institutions in Wales to create a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, develop the skills of staff and students within their institutions, and facilitate the transfer of knowledge to industry. KEF is managed by the Welsh Assembly Government's Department for Enterprise, Innovation and Networks, and is financially supported by both the Welsh Assembly Government and European Union Structural Funds

Further Information:

Stephen Rouse,
Public Relations Office,
Cardiff University.
029 2087 5596