James Hughes, research director at the University of Sheffield AMRC North West, says: “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’ region as the go-to-place for innovation, expertise and skills in advanced manufacturing.”

The 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 £1.6 million from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult (HVM Catapult), will secure the creation of a high-performing technical R&D team that will work with manufacturing companies and their supply chains.

Dave Petley, vice-president for research and innovation at the University of Sheffield, says: “The University of Sheffield has a long-standing reputation of developing specialist regional hubs that provide valuable engineering expertise and access to advanced capabilities tailored to the needs of local industry sectors. The new facility in the northwest will be the catalyst for manufacturing growth, supporting supply chains in the region to drive up productivity and attract inward investment.”

Melissa Conlon, commercial director for University of Sheffield AMRC North West, adds: “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. In turn, this will 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.”

Chairman of the LEP, Steve Fogg, says: “We’ve worked hard to attract the AMRC to the Samlesbury Aerospace EZ and backed it with £20 million of Lancashire Growth Deal Funding. The AMRC will play a key role in helping the county’s aerospace and advanced manufacturing sectors maintain their leading position in the UK, by driving growth, productivity and innovation, and supporting Lancashire firms to compete nationally and internationally.

“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,” he continues. “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, says: “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.”

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 Conlon. “We are working on a number of collaborative R&D projects with key stakeholders to drive forward advanced manufacturing across Lancashire.”

The University of Sheffield AMRC North West building will include machining, additive and hybrid manufacturing, automated assembly, robotics, and autonomous manufacturing processes and systems.