What we do

Swansea is one of the UK’s leading centres for materials teaching and research. The internationally leading materials research conducted at Swansea is funded by prestigious organisations such as Rolls Royce, Airbus, The European Space Agency, and Tata Steel.

The Materials Research Centre (MRC) has pioneered postgraduate degrees that are tailored to the needs of industry and produce top quality research. This successful approach is demonstrated by a research grant portfolio in excess of £40 million.

Working closely with industry and collaborators


Research projects and areas


The Materials Research Centre incorporates the following internationally recognised research projects:


Key research areas include:

  • Design against failure by creep, fatigue and environmental damage
  • Structural metals and ceramics for gas turbine applications
  • Grain boundary engineering
  • Recycling of polymers and composites
  • Corrosion mechanisms in new generation magnesium alloys
  • Development of novel strip steel grades (IF, HSLA, Dual Phase, TRIP)
  • Functional coatings for energy generation, storage and release

X-ray Microtomography

Centre facilities

Specialist research facilities include:

  • Comprehensive computer systems for specialist and general purposes
  • World-leading equipment for characterisation of the mechanical properties of metallic, ceramic, polymeric and composite materials 
  • Extensive range of laboratories housing scanning electron microscopes with full microanalysis and electron backscatter diffraction capabilities
  • New facilities at both SMaRT and SPECIFIC that house state-of-the-art equipment for characterising aerospace materials and creating functional coated materials for steel and glass respectively



Current funding awards

The SPECIFIC (Sustainable Product Engineering Centre for Innovation in Functional Coatings) project is a unique research and development facility consisting of a multidisciplinary, international consortium led by staff from the MRC within the College of Engineering and Tata Steel. The £20 million project includes a £9.5 million award from the EPSRC and TSB to develop functional coatings to turn buildings into power stations. SPECIFIC is based in a state-of-the-art facility close to the University campus incorporating new laboratories and offices and housing 55 researchers from the University and industry. 

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has announced that the SPECIFIC project will receive £1.65 million in collaborative research funding. Read more about the funding and how it will be used.

The EPSRC Strategic Partnership in Structural Materials for Gas Turbines in collaboration with Rolls-Royce is a major initiative designed to extend the capability of existing high temperature metallic systems and develop novel alloys for potential use within a twenty-year horizon (the so called “Vision 20” materials). In partnership with Birmingham and Cambridge universities, this £50 million scheme supports post- doctoral level research and a Doctoral Training Centre with a rolling cohort of approximately 30 EngD and PhD students at Swansea University. Key supply chain industries are also engaged, including TIMET, the leading producer of commercial titanium products in Europe and TWI (Wales) a centre of excellence for the non- destructive inspection of aerospace materials.

The College of Engineering has been selected as one of five universities in the UK to host a new EPSRC-funded Industrial Doctorate Centre in Manufacturing Engineering. MATTER (Manufacturing Advances through Training Engineering Researchers) is an exciting new venture that will support 26 EngD students over the next four years. MATTER has been developed to provide doctoral level research in advanced manufacturing across three themes: aerospace, automotive and packaging. These themes are critical manufacturing areas for the UK economy and the development and improvement of new manufacturing processes and products will ensure the rapid growth and competitiveness of these sectors.

EngD activity focusing on functional coatings is supported by the Doctoral centre called COATED (Centre Of Advanced Training for Engineering Doctorates). COATED is joint funded by EPSRC and WEFO and provides funding to recruit 21 EngD students between 2012 and 2014.

Through our excellent long-term links with major companies, we receive funding from our main collaborators:



The Institute of Structural Materials at Swansea is a core member of the Rolls-Royce University Technology Centre in Materials.

This is part of a global initiative, with regular liaison with Rolls-Royce centres based in the USA, Germany and Singapore.

This venture supports a wide ranging research portfolio with a rolling value of £6.5 million per annum addressing longer term materials issues, plus a newly incorporated commercial company (Swansea Materials Research and Testing Ltd – SMaRT) to address shorter term investigations with an annual turnover in business to the value of £1 million.

Tata Steel

Tata Steel

Funding of over £6 million to continue our very successful postgraduate programmes with Tata Steel.

This has led to new developments in areas of novel steels for automotive applications, environmentally-friendly coatings for corrosion protection and photovoltaic materials for low cost energy generation.



Over £1m funding has been received from Airbus and the Welsh Government in the last three years to support structural composites research and development in the aerospace industry and to support composites activity across Wales.

Links with industry

The SPECIFIC project is a collaboration lead by Swansea University and Tata Steel with a range of companies such as BASF, Akzo Nobel, Pilkington and Vale Inco together with University groups from across the UK. Here university staff and postgraduates work in a shared open innovation space with industrialists to develop next generation coatings for buildings that will harvest, store and release solar energy.

Other companies sponsoring research projects include Akzo Nobel, Axion Recycling, BAE Systems, Bayer, Cogent, Ford, HBM nCode, Jaguar Land Rover, Novelis, QinetiQ, RWE Innogy, TIMET, TWI (Wales), as well as many smaller companies across the UK.