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A new partnership between one of the North West’s leading universities and a world renowned advanced manufacturing research and development (R&D) facility has been sealed to drive growth among the region’s small and medium sized companies and support innovation across a range of sectors including aerospace, automotive and low carbon energy.

The new partnership between the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre North West (AMRC NW), will deliver collaborative R&D projects, develop graduate talent and engage with regional industry to cement Lancashire’s reputation both as a hub of engineering innovation and as a top destination for high-value manufacturing inward investment.

UCLan is now working with the University of Sheffield AMRC on a number of research projects, including the world’s first graphene-skinned plane, Juno, and a range of R&D activity with the UCLan’s prestigious new £35 million Engineering Innovation Centre (EIC).

Officially opening in September 2019, the EIC is a key part of UCLan’s ambitious £200 million Masterplan to make a step-change in producing locally trained graduate talent to expand the region’s strengths in the aerospace, automotive and low carbon, energy sectors.

The collaboration with the University of Sheffield’s AMRC – part of the UK’s number one university engineering faculty for research income and investment – will strengthen links between higher education, R&D innovation assets and industry, as highlighted in the government-commissioned Science and Innovation Audit report – Driving productivity growth through innovation in high value manufacturing.

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 £25 million 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. Today its R&D membership reads like a Who’s Who of the aerospace industry from OEMs such as Airbus, BAE Systems, and Rolls-Royce through the entire aviation supply chain.

UCLan Chief Operating Officer Michael Ahern 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.”

Co-founder and Executive Dean of the AMRC, Professor Keith Ridgway, 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 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”.

Vice President for Innovation at the University of Sheffield, Professor Dave Petley, said:

“We are very pleased to partner with the University of Central Lancashire on projects driven by the new University of Sheffield AMRC North West. The AMRC has a long history of driving manufacturing and productivity growth in the Sheffield City Region. Through this new collaboration, UCLan and the University of Sheffield will support local industry and the manufacturing sector in the North West.”

Identified as a signature project within Lancashire’s Strategic Economic Plan, UCLan’s EIC has secured £10.5 million 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 £5 million from HEFCE’s STEM Capital Fund.