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The University of Southampton

Collaborative research reaches new heights: Knowledge Transfer Partnership

Structural Metal Decks Ltd (SMD), based in Poole, Dorset, are an SME engaged in the design, supply and installation of composite metal decking and accessories to the construction industry. In 2009 they approached the University of Southampton’s Engineering and the Environment in order to revise the design of their trapezoidal profiles to reaffirm SMD as one of the UK’s leading providers of structural decking systems. The result was a highly successful, two year, Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project sponsored by the Technology Strategy Board.

SMD working under contract for Severfield Reeve Structures, are installing 70,000m2 of their existing R51 profile in the lower floors of what will be the tallest building in Europe, The Shard, at London Bridge. However, the revised profiles developed within this exciting and highly successful KTP will be used on the 72nd floor of The Shard making them , what is believed to be, the highest use of composite metal deck in Europe. "It is incredibly exciting to witness the impact of our research such a short time after its completion" stated Dr Boyd, lead academic on the KTP.

The heavy structures laboratory, within Engineering and the Environment was the location of the experimental testing to Eurocode Building. Dr Bloodworth oversaw the experimental testing and stated that it was "highly beneficial to the laboratory to be involved in the Eurocode testing of these new profiles especially as the laboratory undertook the testing of the first SMD Ltd profile in the 1980s".

As part of the knowledge transfer, the University has supported the Research Associate in the project, Mr Wai Yuk Lau, in the development of numerical modelling methodologies to enable future development of, and to allow virtual performance investigation of, future concept profiles. This approach negates time consuming and expensive testing at the initial concept design stage. This aspect was supervised by Dr Boyd and utilised the computational modelling capability at the University.

Mr Jamie Turner, Technical Director at SMD Ltd., commented that "the use of finite element analysis in the development of future concept profiles is an incredible opportunity that would not have been possible without this KTP relationship with the University of Southampton. It provides us with the methods required to maintain and improve our market position once the deep national recession that has hit the civil engineering industry lifts."

SMD as a company do not have the luxury of an in house R&D facility, however this KTP has given the company the knowledge and tools to enable the concept stage of future R&D to be carried out in house. It has also opened up links with The University of Southampton for future testing requirements.

The knowledge embedded during the KTP has also given the company the ability to develop CPD presentations to transfer further knowledge to the industry; such skills will prove to be of great benefit in opening up new collaborations, and have already realised new contracts for the company in the international market.

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