26 November 2008

Alcan Engineered Products and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne form long-term partnership agreement for new professorship and innovation centre

Alcan Engineered Products and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne form long-term partnership agreement for new professorship and innovation centre

Leading manufacturer of engineered aluminium and composite materials and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne team up to shape tomorrow’s lightweight materials

Alcan Engineered Products, a business unit of Rio Tinto Alcan, has signed a multi-year cooperation agreement with the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, to help accelerate the technical and commercial development of new lightweight materials for business applications in major industry sectors such as aerospace, automotive, construction and building, and transportation.

This agreement strengthens an already longstanding collaboration between these organisations. It includes the establishment of a new Alcan Engineered Products chair in the field of Multi-Materials and Interfaces, and the endowment of a junior professor position in 2009.

Through various knowledge-sharing initiatives, technological partnerships between universities and the industry offer crucial innovation opportunities to key industry leaders such as Alcan Engineered Products,” said Christel Bories, President and Chief executive officer, Alcan Engineered Products. “In our 100 years of existence, innovation has been the backbone of our strategy. This partnership with EPFL will help us foster our leadership in performance material solutions and anticipate market demand with new materials and enhanced manufacturing processes, enabling us to offer solutions for our customers’ future challenges.” 

At the heart of the Alcan Engineered Products innovation strategy is the Innovation Cells programme, located at EPFL’s Science Park. The programme is composed of multidisciplinary teams where commercial, business development, technical, and scientific experts work together to deliver market-ready innovations in small timeframes. “Implementing our Innovation Cells team on the EPFL campus has already resulted in a range of new ideas and potential products, co-developed by EPFL and Alcan Engineered Products,” said Christophe Villemin, President of Alcan Global Aerospace, Transportation and Industry and Executive Sponsor, Alcan Engineered Products Innovation Cells. “Our future chair’s research will lead to new generations of multi-material and hybrid solutions, leveraging our long-standing aluminium expertise to address lightweighting, cost efficiency and environmental challenges for the aerospace industry and other markets.

Over the last few years, innovations of Alcan Engineered Products have played a pivotal role in the development of third generation aluminium-lithium alloys, which enable significant weight savings because of their improved density, mechanical properties and corrosion resistance. In collaboration with major aerospace companies, Alcan Engineered Products also plays a leading role in developing Friction Stir Welding applications and the local tailoring of properties for monolithic aluminium parts. Specifically developed for outdoor use, aluminium sheet products such as Solar Surface® are among the most advanced solar applications currently available, with a transparent ceramic nano-coating for protection against weathering and corrosion.

The partnership with EPFL will develop over the next few years and will result in the establishment of an Alcan Engineered Products innovation centre within EPFL’s new Innovation Square, accommodating both science and business activities. “The goal of the Innovation Square is to attract innovation, research and development units of major companies on the EPFL campus to foster new ideas and technology transfer from science to industry,” said Patrick Aebischer, President, EPFL.

About Alcan Engineered Products

Alcan Engineered Products, a business unit of Rio Tinto Alcan, manufactures and markets engineered materials and solutions for a wide range of industrial sectors, including aerospace, automotive, mass transportation, building and energy. With 15,000 employees located in 34 countries and a commercial presence in 65 markets worldwide, Alcan Engineered Products is organised around seven businesses dedicated to performance materials in the areas of aluminium rolled products, aluminium extrusions, aluminium cable, composite products, automotive components and international trade. Alcan Engineered Products is headquartered in Paris (France).

Alcan Engineered Products has established an innovation unit (Innovation Cells) on the EPFL campus in Lausanne, creating a vibrant community linking researchers from EPFL with technical and commercial specialists of Alcan Engineered Products. This open model of innovation will foster new business ideas for accelerated growth and attract new talents for Alcan Engineered Products.

About EPFL (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne)

EPFL is one of Switzerland’s two Federal Institutes of Technology. Located on the shores of Lake Geneva, EPFL brings together a campus of 10,000 people and 110 nationalities. It offers complete study courses in Engineering, Basic Sciences, Architecture, Life science and Management. In addition to excellence in education and research, EPFL has a strong commitment to technology transfer. A start-up incubator, coaching services, study programs in entrepreneurship, and innovation programs all serve to stimulate the links between lab and business. The Science Park on campus is home to more than 100 enterprises and numerous investors.

With its three missions – education, research and technology transfer at the highest international level – EPFL stimulates collaboration between students, professors, researchers and entrepreneurs. For more information, please see www.epfl.ch.

About Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto is a leading international mining group headquartered in the UK, combining Rio Tinto plc, a London and NYSE listed company, and Rio Tinto Limited, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.

Rio Tinto's business is finding, mining, and processing mineral resources. Major products are aluminium, copper, diamonds, energy (coal and uranium), gold, industrial minerals (borax, titanium dioxide, salt, talc) and iron ore. Activities span the world but are strongly represented in Australia and North America with significant businesses in South America, Asia, Europe and southern Africa.

Media contacts

Rio Tinto Alcan Media Relations, Europe

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne