Review of 2023 strategic activities

Sue Halliwell, operations manager of Composites UK
Sue Halliwell, operations manager of Composites UK

Operations manager, Sue Halliwell looks back at Composites UK’s strategic activities during 2023 - a busy, challenging but positive year for the Association.

Composites UK aims to provide our members with the opportunity to be better informed, to develop their network, to collaborate, and to promote their business, in the UK and overseas, so they can capitalise on the growth of the global composites market and meet net-zero targets. We do this through our five-year strategic plan launched in 2020. Our membership continues to grow with 49 new members in 2023 from across the supply chain and end sectors.

We ran a comprehensive event programme including a first meet-the-buyer day at Leonardo Helicopters, bringing together in total across the year over 700 industry professionals. In addition, we co-organised the 3rd edition of ICS at the new larger venue, the event itself doubling in size attracting 75+ exhibitors and 1,300+ composites-focused visitors across two days. We also took 20 companies to JEC World and seven to the Advanced Engineering show on the Composite UK pavilions. 2024 sees the addition of a pavilion at the Farnborough Airshow.

Government engagement increased significantly with our first Parliamentary reception at the House of Commons in May 2023 delivering a clear message that composites are critical to enable the UK Government to meet its net-zero targets. This was followed in November with a round-table meeting of 13 member companies with Sarah Jones, Shadow Minister for Industry and Decarbonisation where discussions focused around supply chain, sustainability, skills and policy. A clear message was delivered that the UK urgently needs to develop a materials strategy and supply chain if we are to support low carbon manufacturing nationally.

Skills is a critical challenge for the sector, and as Composites UK Workforce Development Group Chair, Matt Bradney stated: “Either we do it or we don’t have an industry”. Our 2023 position paper summarised the key issues and from this we have developed an action plan of how we can support our members. A critical activity is engagement with schools and so in 2024 we will be launching a member support package and skills pledge.

Composites UK aims to support the UK Composites industry to maximise engagement with new technologies. Where needed we will work with industry to develop projects to tackle critical industry issues such as the PRoGrESS project (Products from Recycled Glass fibre at Economic and Sustainable Scale) and thus benefit industry as a whole. PRoGrESS finishes in Q1 2025 and we are excited to disseminate the results.

We joined EuCIA in 2018 following the Brexit vote to give our members a continued voice in Europe, especially around standards and sustainability. We sit on the Board of EuCIA, have helped develop its strategic direction through 2023 and are active in their Sustainability working group, contributing through this to the JEC sustainability report, input to the Europe-wide composite waste survey and completion of an LCA analysis on the cement kiln co-processing process (results available in Q1 2024). During 2024 we will be working with EuCIA to look at waste codes and recycling routes.

2023 saw the development of a sustainability stakeholder map and from that our five-year sustainability action plan. We started development of a support programme for Composites UK members around sustainability, with new information added to the member resources area of the website including the story of, and learnings from, our journey through the green maze to calculate our carbon footprint. Looking at how we quantify industry-wide decarbonisation efforts will be a key work area in 2024 so we can measure progress within the sector. We also hosted a circularity round table discussion at ICS 2023 to look at common industry challenges and start developing strategies and plans to tackle these.

2023 was a busy, challenging but positive year for Composites UK and we look forward to working with our members through 2024.


Composites UK

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