Materials Processing Institute chief makes case for Catapult at House of Commons

Chris McDonald wants SMEs in the supply chain to be able to engage more widely with innovation and funding agencies

Materials Processing Institute Chris McDonald of the Materials Processing Institute
Chris McDonald of the Materials Processing Institute

The chief executive of Teesside’s Materials Processing Institute (MPI) has visited the House of Commons to quiz regional MPs and business leaders on the importance of his sector to UK industry.

Chris McDonald is calling for the organisation, the country’s oldest centre for industrial materials research, to be included among the Government’s Catapult network of technology and innovation centres designed to boost the UK’s business capabilities.

Attending a recent event in Westminster hosted by the CBI, he enquired about UK industrial strategy and the need to enable SMEs in the supply chain to engage more widely with innovation and funding agencies.

In response, Redcar MP Ian Swales provided reassurances that the MPI had an important role to play when it came to Government innovation policy.

Also on the panel were Newcastle East MP Nick Brown, Durham MP Roberta Blackman-Woods and Hexham MP, Guy Opperman.

Mr McDonald said: “It was an extremely interesting session, and there were a lot of positive to come out it from our point of view.

“Lots of important points of our agenda were discussed, including standing up for SMEs, supply chains and our role in the UK innovation landscape.”

Founded almost 70 years ago, the MPI evolved to become the research and development arm firstly of British Steel, then more recently of Tata Steel, before returning to its independent status in November.

An open-access technology centre serving organisations that work with materials, materials processing or energy, it specialises in challenging processes - particularly those involving high temperatures, hostile environments and high specification materials.

Its services include the provision of process support, materials and metals industry consultancy, general pilot and demonstration facilities, iron and steelmaking process technology and capabilities in science that supports materials-based industry.

The organisation also boasts an SME Technology Centre, providing tailored support for smaller businesses in the sector, and a Doctoral Training Centre, which carries out industry-applicable research with a strong business focus.

Last year, the CBI acknowledged Mr McDonald’s push for Catapult status in its annual report. However, Mr McDonald said it was important to stress the message again.

“Obviously things change quite quickly in business, so to get the opportunity to once again outline our aims of gaining Catapult Centre status keeps us fresh in the memory and doesn’t do any harm in the long-term,” he said.

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