PRESTON is to set to house a multi-million pound engineering centre, designed to help plug a major national skills gap, we can reveal today.
The city’s University of central Lancashire has unveiled plans for the £20m plus project.
The university plans to establish itself as a leader in engineering innovation by building the state-of-the-art facility at the city centre campus.
Architects are already working on plans to turn the vision into reality.
Due to open in 2018, the Engineering Innovation Centre (EIC) will exploit UCLan’s position at the centre of one of the most intensive engineering and manufacturing areas in the UK to create an internationally competitive facility bringing together the region’s expertise from both academia and industry - and, it is hoped, help generate more women into the engineering sector.
The centre will be equipped to the highest standard with technology demonstration areas and specialist work areas to create an integrated space for teaching, research and knowledge exchange.
UCLan will invest more than £20m into the project but will also work with industry, both with large and small and larger organisations across the region.
The ambitious plans were unveiled to the region’s business and engineering leaders at a special conference.
Rob Wallace, UCLan’s dean of the School of Computing, Engineering and Physical Sciences, said: “The UCLan Engineering Innovation Centre is an ambitious and exciting project that will enable us to provide a long-term economic asset for the area by supporting the industries that are the foundations of Lancashire’s economy and play an important role in the UK’s Industrial Strategy.
“We also aim to inspire and create the next generation of highly-skilled engineering leaders, ready to take on the challenges and opportunities within the UK and global economies.
For instance, by 2020 one in five young people in the UK will need to become an engineer if we are to close the skills gap.
“The EIC will help to address this demand and work with local schools and colleges to encourage more students to take up engineering as an attractive career option. We are particularly targeting women who are vastly under-represented in this field. “
He added that through the expanded engineering school UCLan will also offer degrees in emerging areas such as oil and gas safety engineering and aerospace engineering.
Students will get the chance to work on real life projects as companies will be able to use the centre’s advanced facilities and specialist testing equipment.
Andrew Lewis, an aerodynamicist for Williams F1 and former UCLan student applauded the initiative.
He said: “In the relatively short time since I graduated from UCLan I have come to learn and experience first-hand how valuable the transfer of knowledge is in industry. Motorsport is highly competitive and teams are very protective over their intellectual property. However in recent years we have seen the transfer of this knowledge in to other areas such as power, transportation and automotive markets.
“What is also clear is that diversity helps to deliver creativity. The lack of women in engineering can be considered as just one aspect of this, having a more diverse workforce in my opinion is only a good thing.”
UCLan is one of largest universities in the UK with 38,000 students and staff and an employment-focused course portfolio containing over 350 undergraduate programmes and nearly 250 postgraduate courses.
It also has extensive overseas link, including a new campus in Cyprus and an international reputation for research in several key areas.