Sheffield’s global reputation for high-tech manufacturing has been given a ‘tremendous boost’ – with the go-ahead for a £43 million project to create the world’s most advanced research factory.
The Government has granted £10m towards the Sheffield University project, with the balance to be funded by the university and private companies.
The Factory 2050 facility is to be built at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Catcliffe, and involves leading manufacturers including Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and Spirit AeroSystems.
Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “This scheme will be a tremendous boost for Sheffield’s global reputation.
“Sheffield is growing in this reputation to be one of the top regions in the UK and the world, especially in high-tech areas.
“The size of our manufacturing sector is now above the national average, employment is above average, and we have transformed the culture of the city away from being a victim to being a success story.”
He added the 50 jobs which are to be created at the facility were ‘welcome news’.
Nick Clegg, Sheffield Hallam MP and Deputy Prime Minister, said: “This shows how the Coalition Government is investing in Sheffield to ensure we remain a world leader in advanced manufacturing – while creating new jobs and a stronger economy at the same time.
“I’m delighted that the university, business and Government have all come together to make this exciting project happen.
“This will be a landmark development and prove to be a huge asset in attracting even more jobs and investment to our region.”
The AMRC Factory 2050 will be the UK’s first fully reconfigurable assembly and component manufacturing plant.
Leading manufacturers, including Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and Spirit AeroSystems are also committed to supporting the project.
Prof Keith Ridgway, executive dean of The University of Sheffield AMRC, said: “This will be the most advanced factory in the world. It will give us a home for the research and demonstration work associated with building the next generation of aircraft and energy technologies.
“The aim is to be able to manufacture any component as a one-off, and instantaneously switch between components. This will be a totally reconfigurable factory, one of the goals of the advanced manufacturing research strategy.”
The AMRC Factory 2050 will combine technologies including advanced robotics, flexible automation, unmanned workspace, off-line programming in virtual environments linked to plug-and-play robotics, 3D printing from flexible automated systems, man-machine interfaces, and new programming and training tools. Around 50 researchers and engineers will work in the new facility.
The building will have an area of around 4,500 sq m, and will be built to high environmental standards. It will be constructed largely from glass, to showcase the advanced manufacturing technologies being developed within. The exact location is yet to be decided.
Around 50 researchers and engineers will work in the new facility, which will be completed around the end of 2014.
Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, said: “The UK’s world-class universities are at the forefront of our economic recovery. It’s vital we do everything we can to encourage collaboration with the private sector and boost funding for research. These excellent projects will not only deliver new knowledge and applications for industry, but will accelerate growth and foster innovation between the research base and business, keeping the UK ahead in the global race.”
The funding for Sheffield is part of a £1.15bn investment in five universities across the country, which includes £300m from the Government.
Other universities benefiting are Cambridge, Manchester, University College London and Strathclyde.
Chancellor George Osborne, who announced the Government funding, said: “The spending review is about making choices, and for me science is a personal priority.
“By bringing together our Nobel Prize winning scientists, our world-class companies and our entrepreneurial start-ups, we can drive innovation and create the economic dynamism Britain needs to win in the global race.
“We are making difficult decisions on things like welfare so that we can invest in areas like science.”