New R&D facility will ensure North is ‘engine room’ of Industry 4.0

Posted on 16 Dec 2019 by The Manufacturer

A £20m cutting-edge R&D facility, dedicated to furthering aerospace, automotive and advanced manufacturing capabilities in the North West of England, has been approved for capital funding from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership Growth Deal.

The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) has been granted permission to build an applied research facility in the Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone – near Preston, one of four zones that make up the wider Lancashire Advanced Manufacturing and Energy Cluster.

An artist impression of the University of Sheffield AMRC North West facility.

An artist impression of the University of Sheffield AMRC North West facility

The new 4,500 sqm factory, approved by South Ribble Borough Council and Ribble Valley Borough Council, will reportedly have a specific focus on vehicle electrification, battery assembly and lightweighting technologies, and aims to serve as the “catalyst” for manufacturing growth, supply chain support and inward investment to the region.

Samlesbury Aerospace EZ is already home to several critical aerospace facilities, including BAE Systems’ Academy for Skills and Knowledge, and the Wincanton Defence and Logistics Centre. BAE is also constructing a £12m asset management hub in the area.

Capital funding from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Growth Deal made the new build possible – combined with £2.5m investment from the European Structural Investment Fund (ESIF) and £1.6m from the High-Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult.

The new facility is expected to house machine tools, additive and hybrid manufacturing, automated assembly, robotics, and autonomous manufacturing processes and systems, and the centre is tasked with ensuring “that Lancashire and the North becomes the engine room of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, from robotics and automation to AI and AR.

This will “support the transition to a low carbon economy, accelerate the move to transport electrification, drive up productivity, improve the competitiveness of indigenous industries and make the region a magnet for global manufacturing brands to invest,” according to Melissa Conlon, commercial director for the University of Sheffield AMRC North West.

The University of Sheffield AMRC North West is currently working with more than 65 SMEs across the region, as part of its mandate from the European Structural Investment Fund (ESIF) to enhance the regional economic base and its supply chains.

“Drive job creation and economic growth in the county for years to come”

“The AMRC will play a key role in helping the county’s aerospace and advanced manufacturing sectors to maintain their leading position in the UK, by driving growth, productivity and innovation and supporting Lancashire firms to compete nationally and internationally,” said Steve Fogg, chairman of the LEP.

“The AMRC is also another hugely important investment in the Samlesbury Aerospace EZ. We expect considerable synergies between the AMRC and the growing number of top-class, high-tech facilities that are already on the site and it will also complement UCLan’s Engineering Innovation Centre, which the LEP also helped fund.

A map of UK Catapult Centres – established and overseen by the innovation agency, Innovate UK

Map of Catapult Centres - The Catapult Centres are an elite network of world-leading technology and innovation centres designed to transform the UK's capability for innovation and help drive future economic growth. The centres are not-for-profit, independent organisations which connect businesses with the UK's research and academic communities to “close the gap between concept and commercialisation”. They are established and overseen by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

By Rory Butler, Staff Journalist