Caledonian Aerotech Ltd

We facilitate active collaborations and establish strong links and partnerships with companies, and are committed to the Knowledge Transfer Partnership UK Programme (KTP) which helps businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through better use of the knowledge, technology and expertise that reside within universities.

A highly successful KTP partnered our School of Engineering and Physical Sciences with Caledonian Aerotech Ltd, a specialist global recycler in the areospace industry.

Award-winning commitment to providing practical solutions

The success of this KTP demonstrates our commitment to providing problem-solving capacity for business. Partnerships are key to Heriot-Watt's approach and working with innovative companies provides valuable insight to our research programmes.

Recognition of our input and effectiveness in this particular KTP came with the first-ever triple award made under the KTP programme. Our partnership with Caledonian Aerotech (formerly known as Caledonian Alloys) won a Winning Partnership Award, the Engineering Excellence Award, sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering, and the Best Partnership Programme in 2008; then went on to win the 2010 Scottish KTP Awards and the UK KTP Awards Engineering Excellence Award.

About Caledonian Aerotech

I was energised by tackling real-world problems and seeing the fruits of our labour in the workplace.

Robin Westacott, School of Engineering and Physical Sciences

Caledonian Aerotech has carved a lucrative niche in the multi-billion dollar global aerospace market by recycling and processing the special alloys used in the production of aircraft engines, land-based turbines and in the petrochemical industries.

A core process is recovering the metal left after machining, then cleaning, grading and preparing it to be returned as ‘chips' to specialist melters for re-use. Headquartered in West Lothian, this specialist company has 160 employees, eight processing facilities and three sales offices located around the world.

The aim of the partnership

Tapping into the expertise and knowledge base at Heriot-Watt, led by Dr Robin Westacott in Chemical Engineering, this Knowledge Transfer Partnership sought to identify and implement a means of reducing the environmental impact of Caledonian Aerotech's cleaning process, improve its effectiveness and realise large cost savings.

The company's challenges included having to meet increasingly stringent environmental standards in Europe and the US and a changing manufacturing process, which can result in severe process quality issues. Caledonian and the University worked closely to significantly improve production quality and throughput, while at the same time reducing fugitive emissions to the atmosphere from degreasing facilities.

Results of the partnership

The partnership enabled Caledonian to access a huge knowledge base and research facilitates that have resulted in the implementation of latest technologies.

It improved the company's ability to minimise the environmental impact of its nickel alloy turnings cleaning process, as well as enabling the development of a new process for cleaning titanium, which in turn facilitated Caledonian Aerotech's entrance into a previously closed market in the US.

The project exceeded the ten per cent reduction target for volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions. In addition, the KTP's scope built Caledonian's credibility with many large multi-national companies, helping to establish it as a market leader with a 'can-do' attitude.

Caledonian Aerotech Ltd have since gone on to undertake a further two KTPs in supply chain management and sustainability with Heriot-Watt University.

The benefits to us were significant as well, generating income, building industry connections and developing the potential to create new intellectual property. It also allowed undergraduates the opportunity to work on real research projects under the guidance of departmental staff.