WORK is set to begin on a "world-leading" £4.1 million research centre in Rosyth.

The first major engineering works on FASTBLADE, a state-of-the-art composite structures research facility, will commence this month as part of an industry-academic partnership between the University of Edinburgh and Babcock International Group (Babcock).

A team of Babcock engineers will shortly take on the construction of FASTBLADE's 75-tonne structural reaction frame and will start the fit-out of the new facility in Rosyth which is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

It will be used initially for lifetime fatigue testing of renewable energy tidal turbine blades, using pioneering technology which will be the first of its kind in the world.

The centre is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the University of Edinburgh, with Babcock appointed as the principal engineering designer.

The partnership between the university and Babcock has been developing for more than two years with support from Edinburgh Innovations, the university’s commercialisation service.

Professor Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, head of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering, said: “This collaboration is a real opportunity to develop the next generation of engineers that industry will need and will be a resource for apprentices and engineering students to capture real-time data from industrial-scale equipment in the classroom.

“This is a significant milestone towards this unique facility opening for business to the global composites manufacturing market. The reaction frame is the backbone of the FASTBLADE system, holding clients’ structures in place in order to carry out research and testing.”

Neil Young, a technology director at Babcock, said: “Babcock likes to work in innovative, collaborative ventures for long-term value and this is a fantastic example of that. We’re bringing together the best engineering minds with technology innovation from the University of Edinburgh.

“We have optimised the facility design in partnership with the university and the next step is the physical build of the facility which, when complete, will be a world-class centre of innovation in composite testing, as well as a fatigue test facility for developers.”

Douglas Chapman, Dunfermline and West Fife MP and SNP spokesperson for Enterprise and Innovation, said: “Investments like this between Babcock plc and the University of Edinburgh point the way to a 'future Rosyth' where technology and innovation sits at the very heart of opportunities and jobs that highly-skilled engineers will bring to the area.

“The start of this £4.1m investment is great news for the West Fife economy and comes at a difficult time for business and jobs. Clearly, this news is all the more welcome given current circumstances. I congratulate Babcock and their partners for just getting on with the project as we look towards the future.”

FASTBLADE is expected to be fully assembled and operational in 2021 with the reaction frame expected to be finished by December with engineers adhering to COVID-19 guidelines.

With its novel technology it will be an international centre of innovation in the research and testing of composite materials and structures for a variety of industries such as tidal energy, marine, transport, nuclear and aerospace.