The IRC in Materials was set up with a grant of over £10 millions in 1989 following an open competition between all Universities with relevant research activities in metallic and ceramic materials. This laboratory was staffed by selected members of the Schools of Metallurgy and Materials, Chemical Engineering and Manufacturing & Mechanical Engineering in Birmingham and the Materials Department in Swansea. In total there were about 25 academic members of staff. In addition the funding from EPSRC (the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) and from other research contracts supported about 40 research fellows and an equal number of research students.
Importantly, the award of the IRC to Birmingham/Swansea included substantial funding to build up the comprehensive equipment required for processing of materials that complemented the facilities and equipment for microstructural and mechanical property assessment. This equipment included a plasma furnace for melting alloys, and powder-processing facilities including a HIP and a laser fabrication facility, the latter two have recently been upgraded through regional development funding. Casting research in IRC was further strengthened in 2006 through the appointment of a star professor (Prof Nick Green) by Rolls-Royce and EPSRC and by addition of the state-of-the-art casting and heat treatment facilities. IRC is the only University laboratory in Europe carrying out research into Net Shape HIPing and single crystal Ni alloy casting.
The IRC is now part of the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences and contains three active research groups (casting, powder processing, alloy development, machining, process modelling). The IRC has been actively involved in FP5, FP6 and now FP7 programmes. The IRC thus brings unique expertise in the area of powder processing using Direct Laser Fabrication, net shape HIPing, casting, microstructure and mechanical property assessment and a considerable experience in Framework projects.