Economy Secretary Ken Skates has announced in principal allocation of £20m to establish an Advanced Manufacturing & Research Institute with the aim of securing a major role for Wales in the development and design of future wing technology.
The institute in North Wales is expected to have a strong focus on advanced manufacturing sectors, including aerospace, automotive, nuclear and food, and is likely to target collaborative R&D, advanced manufacturing techniques and production processes, training needs and skills across industry.
According to economy secretary Ken Skates: “The institute will deliver game-changing support to key manufacturing companies, as well as multi-sector supply chain companies and the broader SMEs economy.
“It is geared to increase productivity, commercialisation, innovation and skills development to ensure a thriving competitive industry base that will be a catalyst for growth and jobs across the supply chain in Deeside, North Wales, the Northern Powerhouse and further afield.”
Airbus has confirmed it will be the first anchor tenant for the new centre ensuring two-way maximum benefits for the supply chain and the creation of wider economic advantages. Working with AMRC Sheffield as the key partner it involves the R&D test phase for new wing technology, called Wing of the Future which includes the prototype and delivery of design, engineering and a wing demonstrator at Broughton.
Attracting this R&D project to Wales is hoped to support Broughton’s ability to secure the manufacture of these new wings in the future which will help towards safeguarding thousands of jobs up to 2030.
The £20m in principal funding from the Welsh government will support an initial £10m investment from project partners to develop the Institute and maximise every opportunity, including its key geographical location in Wales and its proximity to the Northern Powerhouse.
The institute will operate as a single entity, split between a proposed 4,500 sqm cutting-edge ‘hub’ R&D facility in Broughton, and a 1,000 – 1,500 sqm networking, training, business development and advice facility in close proximity to the Deeside Industrial Park.
The institute, which was a Programme for Government commitment, has been developed by the Deeside Enterprise Zone Advisory Board; AMRC Sheffield; Swansea University, and Coleg Cambria, in conjunction with SMEs and large companies.
Both centres will be open access and outward looking, actively seeking collaborative partnerships with industry and academia partners locally and internationally.
Skates explained: “In light of the uncertainties facing companies following the Brexit vote, it is more important than ever that we support their innovation and competitiveness.
He added: “The importance of securing the next generation of wing manufacturing in Broughton cannot be overemphasised and the confirmation by Airbus that their development will take place in Wales is testament to their workforce and the wider advanced manufacturing and materials sector in Wales.”
A development board, supported by a development director, is due to be appointed shortly and will undertake formal due diligence and finalise the industrial requirement leading to final investment decision. The outcome of that work will confirm the specification and location of the facilities and is expected by summer 2017.