UCLan forms major R&D partnership with University of Sheffield

The University of Central Lancashire has teamed up with the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre North West to form a partnership which will help support innovation in the the county's SMEs.

A new £25m-plus facility will be launched at the Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone in 2021 as part of the agreement, which has been designed to enhance Lancashire’s reputation both as a hub of engineering innovation and as a top destination for high-value manufacturing inward investment.

The new partnership will support sectors including aerospace, automotive and low carbon energy. It will deliver collaborative R&D projects, develop graduate talent and engage with regional industry.

The two organisations have already worked together on a number of research projects, including the world’s first graphene-skinned plane and a range of R&D activity at UCLan’s new £35m Engineering Innovation Centre (EIC).

The AMRC North West, whose research facilities and specialist equipment are currently located at Heatley House on UCLan’s Preston Campus, plans to open a purpose-built £25m-plus facility at the Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone in 2021, funded through the ERDF, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and the local Growth Fund.

The new R&D facility is the latest venture by the AMRC, which was established in 2001 as a collaborative enterprise between the University of Sheffield and Boeing, and today works with firms including Airbus, BAE Systems, and Rolls-Royce.

This partnership builds on our existing strengths in high value manufacturing

Michael Ahern, UCLan chief operating officer, said: “This is an important and significant partnership for Lancashire and the North West, which will ensure the region is an attractive destination for inward investment and the creation of new businesses, in addition to providing the highest level of support for existing engineering and manufacturing companies.

“It also means the area will be home to some of the best learning and applied research facilities in the world. From staff and students, to SMEs and large businesses, it’s an exciting time for all who are set to benefit.”

Professor Keith Ridgway, co-founder and executive dean of the AMRC, said: “We share Lancashire and the North West’s ambition to become a central player in a fast growing, dynamic Northern Powerhouse economy that harnesses the translational research experience of the AMRC and its partners to create high-value added jobs and improve productivity across a region critical to the success of the north.

“The government's Science and Innovation Audit recognised that within the geographies of the Sheffield City Region and Lancashire lies a unique opportunity. It has all the components required to equip the UK to deliver the vision of the 4th industrial revolution, Industry 4.0.

"This partnership with UCLan is part of realising that SIA vision; it builds on our existing strengths in high value manufacturing; our innovative excellence; our world-class engineering research; our multi-level skills training from apprenticeships to post-doctorate; ensuring that the emerging advanced manufacturing innovation corridor has the right skills, people and technology to close the productivity gap not just for the North but for the UK as a whole."

Identified as a signature project within Lancashire’s Strategic Economic Plan, UCLan’s EIC has secured £10.5m via the Lancashire Enterprise Partnerships’ Growth Deal with the Government. The new facility has also received £5.8 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and £5m from HEFCE’s STEM Capital Fund.