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The impact of fluid dynamics in the UK

Fluid dynamics is a major UK industrial and research strength, and is critical to many applications. Fluid dynamics is an enabling technology for industry sectors as diverse as transport, healthcare technologies, marine and energy. It plays a key role in the most important challenges facing today’s society, including the drive to net zero, understanding disease and predicting weather and climate.

For the first time, the UK fluid dynamics industry has been analysed. Fluid dynamics generates £13.9 billion worth of output from over 2,200 firms and employs 45,000 people. The total UK turnover of firms engaged in fluid dynamics exceeds £200 billion and together they employ over 500,000 people, illustrating how fluid dynamics activity is often embedded in larger organisations. The gross value added (GVA) to the economy from fluid dynamics is estimated to be £3.4 billion. The industry is distributed across the UK with significant activity in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and across England, supporting a levelling up of the economy.

The UK is a world leader in fluid dynamics research, including fundamental, computational, data driven and experimental methods. The breadth and significance of the knowledge base is underpinned by consistent support from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), including the STEM-facing research councils EPSRC, BBSRC, MRC, NERC and STFC. UKRI have invested in relevant research totalling over £2.3 billion over the last 10 years, and provided support for skills development via Centres for Doctoral Training and similar structures.

The research strength in universities is spread both geographically and among many disciplines, including mathematics, physics, engineering, biophysics, and geo- and environmental sciences. Fluid dynamics is a prime example of a deep, transformative technology. UK-led research has enabled the development of Computational Fluid Dynamics software, which is now a mainstay across all industry sectors.

Advances in computational methods and investment in UK infrastructure underpin the pre-eminence of the UK in climate science and weather forecasting. Among many applications, these techniques are also now being used to increase the efficiency of renewable energy solutions and develop personalised medicine, including treating heart disease and infertility. Fluid dynamics is at the cusp of a new breakthrough, coupling exascale computing and big data to support the optimisation of processes and deep understanding of complex problems.

It is vital that these advances propagate into a wide range of application sectors and companies of all sizes. A National Centre to foster collaboration and further growth is essential to retaining the UK’s position as a world leader in fluid dynamics, thereby underpinning the growth of multiple sectors across the UK.

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For more information on UK Fluids Network, please visit the UK Fluids website.

For more information on LIFD, please visit the LIFD website.

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