UCLan plans £20m engineering innovation centre

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has unveiled plans to establish itself as a leader in engineering innovation by building a state-of-the-art facility at its Preston campus.

UCLan EICOpening in 2018, the Engineering Innovation Centre (EIC) will capitalise on the location of the university at the centre of one of the most intensive engineering and manufacturing areas in the UK to create an internationally competitive facility that will bring together the region’s expertise from within academia and industry.

UCLan will invest in excess of £20m into the project and architects are now working on plans to turn the vision into reality. The EIC will be equipped to the highest standard with technology demonstration areas and specialist work areas to create an integrated space for teaching, research and knowledge exchange.

Rob Wallace, dean of the school of computing, engineering and physical sciences, said: “The UCLan Engineering Innovation Centre is an ambitious and exciting project that will enable us to provide a long-term economic asset for the area by supporting the industries that are the foundations of Lancashire’s economy and play an important role in the UK’s Industrial Strategy.

“We also aim to inspire and create the next generation of highly-skilled engineering leaders, ready to take on the challenges and opportunities within the UK and global economies. For instance, by 2020 one in one in five young people in the UK will need to become an engineer if we are to close the skills gap. The EIC will help to address this demand and work with local schools and colleges to encourage more students to take up engineering as an attractive career option. We are particularly targeting women who are vastly under-represented in this field.

“Through our expanded engineering school we will also offer degrees in emerging engineering disciplines such as oil and gas safety engineering and aerospace engineering.”

The EIC also plans to work closely with industry, both with SMEs and larger organisations operating throughout the region, and enhance its reputation as a key engineering innovation hub throughout Lancashire. Students will benefit from real life projects as the EIC opens its doors for companies to access its advanced facilities and specialist testing equipment.

Andrew Lewis, an aerodynamicist for Williams F1 and UCLan alumni, commented: “In the relatively short time since I graduated from UCLan I have come to learn and experience first-hand how valuable the transfer of knowledge is in industry. Motorsport is highly competitive and teams are very protective over their intellectual property. However in recent years we have seen the transfer of this knowledge in to other areas such as power, transportation and automotive markets.

“What is also clear is that diversity helps to deliver creativity. The lack of women in engineering can be considered as just one aspect of this, having a more diverse workforce in my opinion is only a good thing. “The North West has a rich heritage in engineering and manufacturing; the EIC will locate itself perfectly in order to drive innovation and the all-important transfer of knowledge. I look forward to seeing it develop and what opportunities it brings.”