David Willetts visits Cranfield University

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Universities and Science Minister the Rt Hon David Willetts MP outlined in a speech last week the Government’s aspiration to make the UK the “best place in the world to do science”, encouraging closer ties between universities and business. Later he cited Cranfield University, with its reputation for research and innovation, and deep links with business, as the kind of institution he had in mind.

Cranfield was therefore pleased to welcome the Minister to its Bedfordshire campus on Friday 13th January 2012. He was greeted by Professor Sir John O’Reilly, Vice-Chancellor of the University and Professor Clifford Friend, Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

The Minister visited several of Cranfield’s impressive industrial scale facilities including the Airbus supported Advanced Robotic Wing Manufacture facility, the Cranfield Oil and Gas Centre - whose innovations are supporting development of the next generation of deep sea oil exploitation, and the University’s Off Road Dynamics Facility - the only centre of its type in the UK to study the relationship between machines and the soil environment.

In particular he saw how the Off Road Dynamics Facility can simulate, under controlled indoor conditions, driving surfaces from around the world; speeding up the development of new off road vehicles compared to traditional fieldwork. The Minister saw first hand the Centre’s work on a broad range of vehicles ranging from household names such as Jaguar Land Rover to the next generation Mars Rover.

He completed his visit at Cranfield Aerospace Ltd, a wholly owned University company, where he saw a range of the company’s work on full-scale aircraft. This included his own Department’s Aeronautical Research Aircraft, which is based at Cranfield Airport and technically supported by Cranfield Aerospace, and the X48B a revolutionary aircraft supplied to Boeing and NASA.

Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts said: “Cranfield University is undertaking an array of sophisticated research. Its work with the aerospace and automotive industries in particular will play an important role in driving growth and boosting UK manufacturing.”

Following the visit Professor Sir John O’Reilly said: ‘The Minister’s visit to Cranfield has allowed him to see how a postgraduate university linked closely to business can make a major contribution to economic growth and rebalancing of the UK economy. During his visit he has seen how Cranfield is contributing to the research and innovation of our strategic partners, helping secure high-skill jobs for the UK.’