An engine room to power innovation

The final touches are being made to AMRC North West, the £20m research centre set to make Lancashire a leader in manufacturing innovation and act as an engine room for the region’s sustainable economic growth.

The flagship facility, which sits at the heart of the Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone close to Preston, is run by the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and has been built using a £20m grant from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Growth Deal.

Construction on the 4,500 sqm research and innovation facility began in late 2020 and is almost complete, with work underway to install state-of-the-art equipment and get the building ready for staff to move in ahead of an official opening planned for early 2022.

The cutting-edge centre combines sleek, modern office workspace with a flexible high-tech workshop, and a triple-height atrium forms a hub where staff can interact and exchange ideas. A ‘social heart’ space overlooks the workshop area where innovation-led R&D will focus on digital and additive manufacturing, vehicle electrification, battery assembly and lightweighting technologies.

Melissa Conlon, commercial director for AMRC North West, said the new centre will keep Lancashire at the forefront of advanced manufacturing and technologies, and support the region’s regeneration and economic growth.

“Our new building will enable us to scale-up our work with regional stakeholders to help manufacturers in the North West to improve processes, speed up product development and stay competitive by benefitting from new technologies,” she said.

“Our strengths lie in demystifying and derisking the process of adopting Industry 4.0 technologies through research, collaboration and knowledge. By having this fantastic facility rooted in Lancashire, the region’s manufacturers will be able to take advantage of world-class pioneering academic research and translate it into innovative industry-transforming solutions that make a real difference to their businesses.

“Not only will our new home in Samlesbury be a manufacturing research centre but it will also be an open-access technology demonstrator, a 5G testbed, and set the standard for low carbon smart factories to drive inward investment to the region.”

The centre will be equipped with a suite of cutting-edge machines, the first of which have already begun to make their way onto the workshop floor.

Research director James Hughes is delighted to be moving into the state-of-the-art facility, and says its size and scale matches that of the ambitions of the AMRC North West team.

“The journey from concept to reality has been a challenge, however we’re looking forward to a new chapter in the AMRC North West story,” he said. “The new building will allow us to fully showcase the breadth and depth of our research and development technology portfolio in a way that just wasn’t possible previously.

“The team and I are hugely excited that we have the opportunity to show the region exactly what we can do to help manufacturers meet their future challenges.”

AMRC North West has been operating from an interim facility provided by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in the centre of Preston since forming in 2018. The AMRC North West team’s new home is now a gateway development on the Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone, which is part of the wider Lancashire Advanced Manufacturing and Energy Cluster.

Iain Martin, senior engagement manager for AMRC North West, said: “Completion of the facility brings to a close a long and challenging development period, during which time we have been able to establish our Lancashire presence thanks to the generosity of the University of Central Lancashire playing host to us on their Preston campus.

"Having this base in Preston has enabled us to support more than 200 of Lancashire’s manufacturing SMEs to date through our diverse range of fully-funded support programmes.

“We are now incredibly excited to move into our facility which represents the next step in our journey and a real step-change for manufacturing support in the region.”