One of the world’s most prestigious research and development groups has been given the green light to build a dedicated facility in the North West of England which will boost Lancashire’s reputation as one of the UK’s most innovative regions for advanced manufacturing and act as a powerful magnet for inward investors.

Planners at South Ribble Borough Council and Ribble Valley Borough Council granted permission to the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) to build and equip a £20m state-of-the-art facility in a landmark location at the heart of the Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone, one of four zones that make up the wider Lancashire Advanced Manufacturing and Energy Cluster.

James Hughes, Research Director at the University of Sheffield AMRC North West, said: “We are delighted that work can now begin on an applied research facility that will equal the best in the world, consolidating the reputation of Lancashire and the wider Northern Powerhouse as the go-to-place for innovation expertise and skills in advanced manufacturing.”

The new 4,500 m2 facility, which will have a focus on vehicle electrification, battery assembly and lightweighting technologies, is being built with capital funding provided through the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP)’s Growth Deal. In addition, a £2.5 million revenue grant from the European Structural Investment Fund (ESIF) matched with £1.6m from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVM Catapult), will secure the creation of a high-performing technical R&D team that will enhance the manufacturing base of Lancashire, working with manufacturing companies and their supply chains.

Dave Petley, Vice-President for Research and Innovation at the University of Sheffield, said: “The University of Sheffield has a long-standing reputation of developing specialist regional hubs providing valuable engineering expertise and access to advanced capabilities tailored to the needs of local industry sectors. The new facility in the North West will be the catalyst for manufacturing growth, supporting the supply chains in the region to drive up productivity and attract inward investment to create a sustainable future for advanced manufacturing in the region.”

Melissa Conlon, Commercial Director for University of Sheffield AMRC North West, added: “Our mission is to ensure that Lancashire and the North becomes the engine room of the fourth industrial revolution, harnessing the latest digital technologies, from robotics and automation to artificial intelligence and augmented reality, to support the transition to a low carbon economy, accelerate the move to transport electrification, drive up productivity, improve the competitiveness of indigenous industries and make the region a magnet for global manufacturing brands to invest.”

Chairman of the LEP, Steve Fogg, said: “We have worked hard to attract the AMRC to the Samlesbury Aerospace EZ and backed it with £20m of Lancashire Growth Deal Funding.

“The AMRC will play a key role in helping the county’s aerospace and advanced manufacturing sectors to maintain their leading position in the UK, by driving growth, productivity and innovation and supporting Lancashire firms to compete nationally and internationally.

“The AMRC is also another hugely important investment in the Samlesbury Aerospace EZ. We expect considerable synergies between the AMRC and the growing number of top-class, high-tech facilities that are already on the site and it will also complement UCLan’s Engineering Innovation Centre, which the LEP also helped fund.

“With world-class facilities like the AMRC and high-quality infrastructure and support, Lancashire’s EZs combine to make an economic and investor offer of Northern Powerhouse significance, which will drive job creation and economic growth in the county for years to come.”

The LEP and University of Sheffield are part of a consortium which identified opportunities for investment and enhanced research innovation and infrastructure along an Advanced Manufacturing Corridor taking in the two regions and the AMRC North West is the product of this strategy.

Stephen Young, executive director of growth, environment, transport and community services at Lancashire County Council, said: “We welcome the AMRC as our latest tenant at the Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone.

“Lancashire’s advanced manufacturing sector is at the forefront of cutting-edge innovation, and the AMRC will support Lancashire’s existing businesses and act as a catalyst to attract new business into the county and the Enterprise Zone.”

Currently operating from interim facilities provided by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) in the centre of Preston, the rapidly growing University of Sheffield AMRC North West team is already working with more than 65 small and medium sized manufacturing firms from across the region, as part of its mandate through the ESIF funding to enhance the regional economic base and its supply chains.

“The University of Central Lancashire has been a great support,” says Melissa. “We are working on a number of collaborative R&D projects with a number of key stakeholders to drive forward advanced manufacturing across Lancashire.”

The new University of Sheffield AMRC building in the North West will include, among others, machine tools, additive and hybrid manufacturing, automated assembly, robotics, and autonomous manufacturing processes and systems.