Strathclyde attracts investments in manufacturing research

18 March 2011

Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre is to be a major partner in the first of a UK-wide network of elite technology centres unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre is to be a major partner in the first of a UK-wide network of elite technology centres unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

The University of Strathclyde in Glasgow is to play a key role in two multi-million pound government initiatives to stimulate high value manufacturing research in the UK.

Investment in manufacturing capacity is one of the priority areas for the Government’s strategy to stimulate growth and regenerate the economy.

In the area of high value manufacturing, Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre is to be a major partner in the first of a UK-wide network of elite technology centres unveiled by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

The National Technology and Innovation Centre for High Value Manufacturing will allow business and industry to commercialise the results of world class research, and provide routes to new high tech markets. It is the first of a network of centres being supported by more than £200 million of Government funding over the next four years.

In addition, the University is leading the new £5 million EPSRC Centre for Continuous Manufacturing and Crystallisation, within a consortium of universities and industry partners; one of nine Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Centres for Innovative Manufacturing that have secured a total of £51 million funding.

University of Strathclyde Principal, Professor Jim McDonald, said: “Strathclyde plays a significant role in these two announcements because of our research capabilities and track record of working in partnership with business and industry. Together, we are finding solutions to industry problems, and mobilising research and new technologies to support the high-value manufacturing sector. This sector is crucial to the development of a strong and sustainable economy in the UK, and from Scotland’s perspective, our work in this area will ensure we will play a full part in economic regeneration, and our people will benefit from it too. The UK has a proud tradition of manufacturing. It is important that this investment builds upon the city of Glasgow’s proud heritage in engineering excellence, design and manufacturing. These investments will enhance our global reputation for innovation and high quality research.”

This news comes days after the University unveiled plans for the Technology and Innovation Centre at Strathclyde (TIC) – a world-leading research hub for academics and industry in the centre of Glasgow.

The TIC, and the new national manufacturing centres, will work in parallel, forging greater collaboration between academic researchers and industry.

Announcing the high value manufacturing centre, Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, said: “This first elite technology and innovation centre will support our objective to rebalance the economy by underpinning current UK manufacturing strengths through the development and deployment of novel technologies into sectors such as aerospace, automotive and process industries, whilst at the same time driving the UK into leading positions in new high growth markets by creating a platform for innovative SMEs to work with larger companies in developing technologies such as plastic electronics, fibre reinforced polymer composites and biotechnology.”

David Willetts, Universities and Science Minister, added: “Partnerships between higher education and industry are increasingly essential drivers of innovation, opportunity and national prosperity. These new centres will combine inventive research and business acumen to develop the high-tech manufacturing industries we need to secure sustainable growth.”

The Technology and Innovation Centre for High Value Manufacturing has seven partners, including the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) near Glasgow airport. The AFRC is pioneering forming and forging technologies to support manufacturing for the aerospace, energy and automobile industries, and is expected to set new standards in manufacturing design.

It is also home to an Industrial Doctorate Centre, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the University and its industrial partners, to provide training in advanced forming and forging technologies for the research leaders of tomorrow. The AFRC and its activities are expected to be valued at £30 million by 2014.

The other partners in the new high value manufacturing consortium are the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Rotherham, the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Rotherham, the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry, the National Composite Centre at the University of Bristol, the Centre for Process Innovation in Wilton & Sedgefield, and the Warwick Manufacturing Group at the University of Warwick.

Each of the partners brings with them a strong network of linkages with universities specialising in developing leading edge technologies in their areas of focus, and industrial companies seeking to co-develop and then exploit these in the market place.

The EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Continuous Manufacturing and Crystallisation is led by the University of Strathclyde in partnership with the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Loughborough, Bath and Heriot-Watt University, and 10 major industry partners. It will develop new processes for high quality, sustainable manufacturing and harness skills and expertise.

It is also expected to develop international research and development networks, deliver training for PhD students, develop short courses, student placements and industrial secondments, and offer consultancy to share expertise with industry and academics.

The Technology and Innovation Centre for High Value Manufacturing is expected to play a key role in taking the research from the EPSRC Centres to the next stage of the innovation chain.

The Prime Minister announced the £200 million plus investment in the network of technology and innovation centres in October 2010. Their role is to accelerate the commercialisation of technology which has reached a certain level of maturity, typically within a university environment, but which requires further practical development and / or combination with other novel technologies through collaborative R&D before it can be introduced into the market place.

The overall aim is to maximise the economic growth potential of new technology, building on the UK’s strength in basic and applied research, in areas where substantial global markets are forecast.

The government’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, was given responsibility for establishing and overseeing the network of centres and has fast-tracked the centre for high value manufacturing. Over 140 organisations registered their interest and from these a small number of parties were asked to submit proposals. An independent expert panel assessed these and a preferred bidder was selected. Further announcements about technology and innovation centres are likely to be made in the near future, with plans for the remaining centres announced progressively later in the year.

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