The Timber Engineering Research Focus group is being led by Professor Richard Harris, Professor of Timber Engineering at Bath University.

Its concern is that the UK lags behind other countries in Europe in research levels and funding. This results in fewer people teaching timber engineering and consequently fewer trained timber engineers at a time when the industry needs more to maximise the material’s opportunities in the drive to sustainable, green building.

Among those at the meeting in Bath were Structural Timber Association chief executive Andrew Carpenter, Timber Trade Federation chief executive John White, TRADA managing director Andrew Abbott, Graham Ormondroyd, head of materials at Bangor University, Geoff Rhodes, advisory board chair of Edinburgh Napier’s Forest Products Research Institute, timber engineer Luke Whale of C4Ci and Andrew Lawrence of structural engineers Arup.

The group noted that changes in funding for higher education and cuts in research grants put the onus even more on industry to finance academic R&D projects. The research funding ‘multiplier effect’, which uses industry money to leverage additional finance from government, education and other sources is set to become increasingly vital, said attendees, but is currently being exploited better by other sectors.

The new initiative coincides with a Edinburgh Napier University project to secure industry scholarship funders for students taking its one-year MSc in timber engineering. So far 14 companies have committed to support the programme.