University of Sheffield: Game-changing R&D facility to help level-up the North West

A major new state-of-the-art research and development facility that is set to be a game changer for the economy in the North West of England, has officially opened today (10 March 2022).

The new £20 million applied R&D centre is based on a model for academic and industry collaboration pioneered by the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), which has been hugely successful in driving innovation and attracting investment into the South Yorkshire region.

The AMRC North West, situated to the east of Preston, will play a major role in driving innovation in the UK’s advanced manufacturing sectors including aerospace, digital manufacturing, clean energy technologies and additive manufacturing.

Close to a BAE Systems facility, the AMRC North West has already been described by local leaders as a ‘game changer’ for the economy of the region, and will play a key role in helping businesses grow, creating high value jobs, closing the skills gap and helping level-up the region.

This model for academic and industry collaboration at the University of Sheffield AMRC, a facility on the border of Sheffield and Rotherham, played a crucial role in attracting Boeing to open its first European production facility in South Yorkshire and supercar manufacturer McLaren to open a new manufacturing facility in the region. It’s hoped the AMRC North West can help to attract similar investment to Lancashire whilst also supporting existing businesses in the region, from SMEs to some of the world’s biggest manufacturers.

The new AMRC North West building seen from the outside
The new facility will be an open-access technology demonstrator, a 5G testbed, and will set the standard for low carbon smart factories to drive inward investment to the region. Lancashire has a strong manufacturing base and the AMRC North West will further build on this, driving world-class research and expertise across the supply chain.

The AMRC North West has been operating from an interim facility provided by the University of Central Lancashire in the centre of Preston since forming in 2018 – to date, it has supported more than 200 of Lancashire’s manufacturing SMEs.

Its new facility, on the Samlesbury Enterprise Zone, was officially opened by Lee Rowley MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, accompanied by Professor Koen Lamberts, President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sheffield, and Debbie Francis OBE, Chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP), during a tour of the new building, which was built using LEP Growth Deal funding.

Lee Rowley MP, Minister for Industry, said: “This world-leading hub of research and development is precisely what will keep the UK’s advanced manufacturing sector ahead of the pack. Not only will it help businesses unlock key productivity and sustainability gains, it will also drive our ambition to level-up across the North West by supporting economic growth and jobs.”

Professor Koen Lamberts, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “The launch of AMRC North West is a huge achievement. By bringing translational research to the doorstep of existing and new industry we can help to boost productivity and attract more investment to Lancashire. We have a strong 20 year history of working with manufacturers of all sizes to develop greener, more efficient products and processes. We look forward to working with our partners in Lancashire to support the region’s economic growth.”

Steve Foxley, CEO of the University of Sheffield AMRC, said: ”We share Lancashire’s ambition and vision to spark growth and productivity for the area and are very proud of this new addition to the University of Sheffield AMRC’s stable of world-class facilities which will be a beacon for innovation and advanced manufacturing in the region. We are supported in this by Innovate UK and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult who share our ambition to keep the UK and the Lancashire manufacturing community at the forefront of the global aero sector.

“AMRC North West will not only help regional industry to develop new capabilities that build on an already rich manufacturing heritage, but it will strengthen collaboration between industry and academic partners, and put the area in a leading role in developing cutting edge research, technologies and skills that are key to boosting productivity and growing the economy, and delivering on the Net Zero ambition.”

Debbie Francis OBE, Chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said: “It is fantastic that AMRC North West is now open for business in the Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone. This is a significant £20m investment from the LEP’s Growth Deal programme which reflects our confidence in the AMRC’s ability to drive growth and increase productivity to ensure Lancashire’s manufacturers remain at the forefront of innovative and cutting-edge technologies.

“Manufacturing is in our DNA and the fact that the AMRC made the decision to locate in the county is testament to our capabilities in this sector. These world-class facilities will not only enable our businesses to realise their growth potential and create high-value jobs and thereby contribute to the levelling-up agenda, but the facilities will also help them to decarbonise industrial legacy buildings which is critical if we are to meet our net zero ambitions.

“This is a really exciting milestone on such a regionally significant site, and I look forward to the AMRC delivering a step-change to how our businesses operate so they can increase their productivity and competitive advantage.”

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