Manchester can be considered to be the world's first truly industrial city, where the factory and the computer were originally created. The city is at the heart of materials design and manufacture and has wholeheartedly embraced the Industrial Revolutions. By reflecting the changing world and its technologies, Manchester continues to be a "player" in the global economy.
In the 19th and 20th centuries Manchester and the North West of England was an industrial powerhouse based on traditional industries such as engineering, metals, textiles, paper and chemistry. As these commodity industries declined and refocused into higher value, performance technology, new industrial sectors based on aerospace, automotive, nuclear power generation, electronics and telecommunications, plastics and rubbers, corrosion control, healthcare and biomedical applications emerged to "power" the region and ensure it remains a global hub.
During this continuous evolution and regeneration there has been the need for skilled scientists, engineers, designers and graduates who could innovate, manufacture and generate the profits to establish Manchester as a "global centre". The Universities have accordingly worked closely with industry to satisfy the demand for high quality graduates and establish the "Manchester brand".
Textiles and paper
Textiles and Paper were two of the original departments when the Mechanics Institution was created in 1824, and subsequently when The University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST) was established in 1966 both were still influential in educating students for these major global businesses.
Over the years both departments have developed a truly world-wide alumni network with graduates proud to have been educated and associated with these UMIST technology centres. In addition as Textiles grew during the 1970’s new educational themes were developed and the concept of integrated, technology supported Textile Management, Design, Fashion and Retailing programmes were introduced reflecting the diverse nature of the business.
Further still in recognition of the obvious synergies between Textiles and Paper, the Departments were merged in 2003 and thus offered a unique portfolio of skills and research equipment combining cellulosic and nonwovens technology.
Corrosion and corrosion prevention
Although relatively young in comparison Corrosion and Corrosion Prevention studies have still had a long tradition in Manchester and in the 1960's underwent major expansion as the Corrosion Science Division within the large and rapidly expanding Department of Chemical Engineering at UMIST. Following rapid growth and with the impetus from the Department of Trade and Industry for a coordinated corrosion activity linked to the need to solve industrial corrosion problems, the Corrosion Science Division became independent, and in 1972 was established as the Corrosion and Protection Centre, the first such postgraduate department to be created in a UK university.
The success and growing importance to industry of the corrosion activities led in 1973 to the creation of a spin-off company, CAPCIS Ltd, an independent organisation providing an industrial focus for the knowledge and technology emerging from UMIST and which continues to deliver high quality, commercial consultancy and specialist testing services. Significant technology transfer between CAPCIS Ltd and the Corrosion and Protection Centre has facilitated the development of corrosion science and engineering, so crucial for the conservation of materials and the development of new materials, and innovative production processes and protection strategies for use in industry.
In recognition of the success of the Corrosion and Protection Centre, UMIST was awarded the prestigious 2003 Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for outstanding postgraduate teaching, research and long-term commitment to technology transfer in this highly specialised and vitally important industrial field.
In the 1960’s, Manchester boasted two Metallurgy departments, one at the Victoria University of Manchester (VUM) and the other at UMIST. However, in 1975 Manchester created the Joint Departments of Metallurgy and Materials Science within a new purpose-built building that marked an unprecedented fusion of academic excellence between the two universities. A single undergraduate programme for all students from both universities was created with final year specialisations that included an embryonic Materials Science and Engineering course combining the study of metals, ceramics, glasses and polymers.
In 1962 a new Department of Polymer and Fibre Science at UMIST was also established, consisting of the new Polymer Science and Technology group and the existing Textile Chemistry and Paper Science groups, again the first such department to be created in a UK university. However following major government cutbacks and consequent re-structuring within UMIST the Department was re-organised in 1981 and the Textile Chemistry staff were moved into the Textile Technology department and separate departments of Paper Science and Polymer Science and Technology were formed.
Combining our strengths
Further re-structuring followed with the merger in 1988 between the UMIST Department of Polymer Science and Technology and the Joint Departments of Metallurgy and Materials Science to form the Manchester Materials Science Centre. The Centre rapidly developed to become the largest academic materials activity in the UK offering comprehensive undergraduate and postgraduate teaching and research functions across the core areas of metals, ceramics, polymers, biomedical and composite materials.
Most significantly, the close academic collaboration between materials science and corrosion activities in Manchester produced important synergy that has been recognised by the highest ratings in the UK research assessment exercises, a key indication of international research quality and impact, leading to successive 5* RAE ratings in 1996 and 2001 for the Materials Science Centre and the Corrosion and Protection Centre.
Although in looking back we must appreciate our history and heritage, we must also recognise that the future offers the real potential for greater change and immense opportunities. The creation of the new University of Manchester following the unification of UMIST and VUM in 2004, has enabled the Corrosion and Protection Centre (UMIST), the Manchester Materials Science Centre (UMIST/VUM) and the Department of Textiles and Paper (UMIST) to fuse synergistically and become the new School of Materials.
It has formed the largest single materials focus in any European university, and with its unique diversity, offers the genuine prospect of achieving the Manchester 2015 Agenda by becoming world leading in terms of its excellence in education and its research over a broad range of global industries.