On Monday 18th July the 2015 M2A cohort travelled up to Birmingham for the annual tour of prominent UK industrial sites.

The first site earmarked for invasion by the Swansea contingent was the JCB factory in Staffordshire where we learnt how, from simple beginnings, one man’s vision transformed the face of manufacturing in the UK. This was done by creating not only a world class product but also by building a brand which is now internationally synonymous with quality. We saw how state of the art materials, developed in labs by researchers like ourselves, are being installed on the product lines of current-gen vehicles ready to be shipped out all across the world.

After some great food back at the hotel, the day was topped off with drinks in the sunshine by the beautiful canals of Birmingham’s Brindley Place.

The next day we headed out to see how the latest Jaguars and Landrovers are being built at the newly updated works at Solihull. Here we learnt how investment by Indian firm Tata saved the company and has led to a total revitalisation of a flagging British industry. We saw again how manufacturing has been transformed, this time by automation enabling incredible gains in quality and productivity. We also heard about the perks a post-grad student could expect if they chose to work for JLR after their degree – a brand new Jag every 6 months!

Then it was time for more good food and round two with Birmingham’s nightlife.

The next day we left the heady heights of innovation and manufacturing behind, regressed back to the level of our primate ancestors and spent the afternoon swinging through the trees at the Go Ape rope centre in the Forest of Dean. After hurtling down ziplines, getting stuck suspended at 50 feet and throwing ourselves off various platforms we somehow managed to get back on the bus without any injuries.

We returned to Swansea exhausted, sunburnt and chafed but inspired by seeing how the research done by engineers like us is helping British industry cope with the demands of globalisation by providing advances in materials and manufacturing. Looking forward to the next one!

Materials and Manufacturing Academy (M2A) provides industry led postgraduate research training based at Swansea University's new Bay Campus. M2A is part funded by the European Social Fund through the Welsh Government.