Three new strategic investments in UK manufacturing’s future

The announcements today by Siemens, Dassault Systèmes and the UK Atomic Energy Authority underscore the growing importance of industry playing a full role with government and academia in the future of skills and research in the UK.

By coincidence, the three initiatives announced today all focus on the Sheffield/Rotherham region.

Digital Academy

Siemens has created a new Digital Academy to invest in second year university students who are seeking careers in manufacturing.

The partnership between Siemens, the University of Sheffield and Newcastle University offers selected students £3,000 a year from their second year of university, as well as up to 12-weeks paid summer placement throughout the duration of their studies within a Siemens business.

At the end of their degree they will be given the chance to join Siemens’ Graduate Scheme.

Brian Holliday, Managing Director, Siemens Digital Industries
Brian Holliday, Managing Director, Siemens Digital Industries

Brian Holliday, Siemens Digital Industries managing director, said: “This programme gives undergraduates applied and up-to-date experience to bolster their academic learning.

“By strengthening links between business and our world-leading universities, we can inspire and nurture talent to support the UK’s leading role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

The first group of undergraduates were selected from the inaugural Sir William Siemens Challenge, a two-day hackathon-style event held at the University of Sheffield which involved 84 promising engineering students from partner universities.

Applications for the next Digital Academy cohort are now being accepted. For more information on how to apply visit www.siemens.co.uk/digitalacademy

AMRC benefits from new deal

The second major investment involves technology company Dassault Systèmes, which has become a member of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in order to support UK manufacturing as it embraces automation, robotics and visualisation at all levels.

The AMRC, part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, is a world-class research centre for advanced manufacturing, developing sustainable solutions to improve UK productivity, talent and skills.

By introducing new ways of automatically assembling complex products and using advanced technologies such as robotics, augmented reality and large-volume metrology, the AMRC addresses the key operational challenges its partners face as they develop the factories of the future through digital transformation.

Robotics research at the AMRC
Robotics research at the AMRC

Séverine Trouillet, global affairs director, EuroNorth at Dassault Systèmes said: “Automation, robotics and visualisation are the basis on which we are building a radically new world, where entire sectors will be turned upside down.

“No industry will be transformed quite as much as manufacturing, which is why we are proud to be joining the AMRC and helping its members adopt a digital-first way of thinking, and also create the Future of Manufacturing at the heart of the industrial North.”

To celebrate its membership, Dassault Systèmes will also be engaged in a Made Smarter initiative, recently launched at the AMRC, to create an open-access Smart Factory test bed, which will allow companies to improve their productivity, reduce defects and time to market.

The new investment will also impact the increasingly worrying skills gap in the UK, with older workers not being replaced as they retire, by helping industry prepare the workers of tomorrow.

By anticipating the roles required for the future, and by digitally capturing the expertise of retiring engineers, it will be possible to minimise the risk an ageing workforce poses to the UK economy, ensuring that the manufacturing memory of its industrial base is not lost.

Fusion power

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) is to build a new £22m fusion energy research facility on the Advanced Manufacturing Park next year, which will work with research and industry partners to put the UK in a strong position to commercialise nuclear fusion as a major source of low-carbon electricity in the years ahead.

Liz Surrey, UKAEA; Peter Henry, Harworth Estates; Sarah Champion MP; Andrew Storer, Nuclear AMRC
Breaking new ground: Liz Surrey, UKAEA; Peter Henry, Harworth Estates; Sarah Champion MP; Andrew Storer, Nuclear AMRC

The facility is expected to bring 40 highly skilled jobs to the South Yorkshire area, as well as work with the AMRC, and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC).

The Advanced Manufacturing Park already features Rolls-Royce, McLaren Automotive and both the University of Sheffield AMRC and Nuclear AMRC.

The new facility will be funded as part of the Government’s Nuclear Sector Deal delivered through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with £2m of the investment coming from Sheffield City Region’s Local Growth Fund.

The key role of the facility will be to develop and test joining technologies for fusion materials and components – for example novel metals and ceramics. These will then be tested and evaluated under conditions simulating the inside of a fusion reactor – including high heat flux, in-vacuum, and strong magnetic fields.

The site will also help UK companies win contracts as part of ITER – the key international fusion project being built in the south of France. Looking further ahead, it will enable technology development for the first nuclear fusion power plants, which are already being designed.