What is the National Wind Tunnel Facility?
The National Wind Tunnel Facility is a group of 23 strategically important wind tunnels distributed across 12 universities. In 2014 EPSRC and ATI invested £13.3m in the development of these facilities to keep the UK at the forefront of aerodynamic and fluid mechanics research. In return, the universities have made the facilities available up to 25% of the time to UK based academic and industry researchers. Initially the NWTF was aerospace focused. In 2019 six new strategically important facilities were added to the portfolio to include automotive, wind engineering and environmental sectors.
The NWTF is looking to build on the success of the original grant which ended in 2019. The goals for the next phase of development will include:
- Developing the latest instrumentation, equipment and facilities to keep the UK at the forefront or aerodynamic and fluid mechanics research worldwide and enhance remote access capabilities.
- Explore building an Experimental Database to catalogue open access research outputs and promote better connectivity with the CFD community.
- Creating a community hub for academics and industry with events and forums to increase connectivity, inclusivity and information sharing within the UK wind tunnel community.
- Hosting training workshops to share expertise.
- Developing a membership proposal for academics from non-NWTF universities and industry to increase inclusivity.
- Increasing researcher mobility and crosspollination of ideas.
- Marketing and promotion to generate greater awareness of the availability of this national resource.
The NWTF aims at keeping the UK at the forefront of aerodynamic and fluid mechanics research. Recognising that the UK has a world-class talent base, the decision to fund the NWTF was taken to match this talent base to world-class facilities. The paradigm shift provided by NWTF is expected to provide for an overall transformative benefit, establish a world-leading capability while being cost-effective and appealing to multiple sectors.
The enhanced UK capability in experimental aerodynamics is available to all UK-based researchers and aims to create nodes of excellence attracting young researchers. The NWTF also aims to establish a closer tie with industry creating a pull-through environment and an intended spill-over of the collaboration and benefits to other sectors.
By enhancing the symbiosis between facility and research talent, NWTF aims to keep the UK at the forefront of experimental aerodynamics and fluid mechanics. Tunnels serve as ‘attractors’ for the fostering of talent and provide focal points for collaboration. Thus NWTF provides a service that is greater than the sum of its individual tunnels and researchers. The paradigm shift provided by NWTF offers an overall transformative benefit, establishing a world-leading capability across a range of engineering sectors while being cost-effective. The enhanced UK capability in experimental aerodynamics is available to all UK-based researchers. NWTF is keen to foster international collaboration through the establishment of joint funding mechanisms. NWTF also aims to establish closer ties with industry creating a pull-through of talent across a range of sectors. It therefore supports UKRI’s and EPSRC’s strategic objectives and the government’s industrial strategy.
Tunnels forming NWTF are expected to provide a unique resource. They are also expected to meet three criteria:
- The host university is clearly committed to its wind tunnels;
- The host university is research intensive and the lab has a proven track record;
- The investigators local to the facility are altruistic with proven capability to collaborate and are
prepared to demonstrate best practice, so providing an outward-facing role for the community.
Further factors include:
- Equality, Diversity and Inclusion of the host investigator(s);
- Geographical location.
While having due regard for the strategic importance of each tunnel and the overall balance of the
constituent tunnels within NWTF, we expect these criteria to operate for all members.
In providing a research service tailored to meet a range of challenges, we believe NWTF to be the only distributed facility of its kind world-wide.
19 September 2018