Lee Rowley, Minister for Industry at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), says AMRC North West, which is part of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), is a key innovation asset for the region and beyond.
“This world-leading hub of research and development is precisely what will keep the UK’s advanced manufacturing sector ahead of the pack,” said Lee Rowley. “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.”
The applied research centre, which sits at the heart of the Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone in Preston, has been built using a £20m grant from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Growth Deal and extends the University of Sheffield AMRC’s footprint across the north.
It was officially opened by the Industry Minister today (Thursday, March 10) accompanied by Professor Koen Lamberts, President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sheffield, and Debbie Francis, Chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.
Prof Lamberts 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. The AMRC has a strong 20 year history of working with manufacturers of all sizes to develop greener, more efficient products and processes, and we look forward to working with our partners in Lancashire to support the region’s economic growth.”
The state-of-the-art research centre combines modern office workspace with a flexible high-tech workshop facility. Core R&D capabilities include additive and digital manufacturing, batteries and automation, 5G for manufacturing, robotics, autonomous manufacturing processes and systems, and low-carbon technologies.
Debbie Francis OBE, Chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP), 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.''
The opening builds on an established track record of engagement with Lancashire manufacturers by AMRC North West engineers, who have operated from an interim facility provided by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) since 2018. AMRC North West has already worked with hundreds of businesses across Lancashire, de-risking investment in innovation and removing barriers to early adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies to drive growth, productivity and innovation, and support the region’s manufacturers to compete nationally and internationally.
AMRC North West will lead the way in supporting businesses to adopt more energy efficient operations with plans to develop a Low Carbon Smart Building Demonstrator to show manufacturers how it is possible for new digital technologies to be installed into legacy facilities. Supported by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership through the government’s Getting Building Fund, it will create the road map for manufacturers of all sizes, from small to large, as to how they can achieve net zero by 2050 and cut their carbon footprint by 2030.
The centre is also the primary site for the 5G Factory of the Future project, a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) funded programme, which is driving the adoption of 5G technologies in manufacturing through a consortium of industrial and academic leaders from the manufacturing and telecommunications sectors.
Steve Foxley, University of Sheffield AMRC CEO, says AMRC North West will build on Lancashire’s strong manufacturing base, driving innovation across the supply chain.
He 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 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.”
County Councillor Jayne Rear, Cabinet member at Lancashire County Council who represented the council at the AMRC NW opening, said: "The Enterprise Zone is a dynamic and world-class destination in Lancashire's business offer and integral to the levelling up agenda. The county council is leading the development and delivery of this internationally significant site, which provides a high-quality base for high-tech businesses in cyber, robotics, research and development, advanced manufacturing and cutting-edge innovation."