The newly opened applied research building, in the heart of the Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone, near Preston, aims to become the county’s hub to allow businesses of all sizes to tap into the expertise of academics and research engineers, to develop new products and manufacturing techniques which they might not be able to do alone due to cost or lack of technical infrastructure.
The huge 4,500 sqm facility, is home to a range of cutting edge manufacturing machinery such as 3D printers and digital manufacturing equipment, 5G for manufacturing, robotics, autonomous manufacturing processes and systems, plus modern office workspace and low-carbon technologies.
It has been built using a £20m grant from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership Growth Deal and extends the University of Sheffield AMRC’s footprint across the north with the aim of replicating the original site’s success in South Yorkshire, here in Lancashire.
At the official opening conducted by Lee Rowley, Minister for Industry at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, representatives from businesses and groups across Lancashire got to see what it can offer fist hand and how collaborative working can benefit all.
Debbie Francis chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership said: “All manufacturing is advanced, but this is the next stage in a natural manufacturing evolution, which is clearly technology focused. It is all about how you use technology in the commercial setting. This place is great, we have got many companies here, we have got collaboration - there are some serious brains in the game to help some of the smaller businesses around Lancashire develop innovative manufacturing solutions. Technology is the future and this is about harnessing it in the real world.
"Those that cannot afford do to their own research on their own, can access this facility and it should help support high skill jobs across the county. That fact that its a collaborative space is the most important thing about it. The LEP Growth Fund was a catalyst for this centre so we are very proud to see it finally open.”
Melissa Conlon, commercial director of the AMRC North West, said they hoped to replicate the great success of its counterpart in Sheffield in driving inward investment and creating thousands of high value manufacturing jobs. She said it had been described as a routeway to manufacturing excellence and that was what they aspired to be here in the North West.
She said: "This building is not only a world-leading advanced manufacturing centre its an open access demonstrator and we want to open our doors to Lancashire manufacturers to experience the art of the possible in terms of improving their productivity.”
She said it will demonstrate 5G manufacturing for the future and will also be a low carbon smart factory demonstrator to help businesses cut costs and meet their commitments to reducing global warming.
She added: “From Jan 2019 to Dec 2021, via the centre’ ERDF programme, we have worked with more than 200 Lancashire SMEs already (at the AMRC’s temporary site at UCLan while this centre was being built) and an independent assessor estimated that for every £1 invested in delivered £4.22 net economic impact – supporting 22 new businesses, 113 new to market products and created 126 jobs.”
Prof Koen Lamberts vice chancellor of the University of Sheffield spoke to the audience and said: “We are immensely proud of the impact that the AMRC NW already has. The model, based on bringing together academics, research industry and Government, can make a real difference through that synergy.
"The AMRC in South Yorkshire has seen extraordinary inward investment and innovation led regeneration over the past 20 years. So we are delighted to bring that blueprint for growth to Lancashire, with the aim of establishing Lancashire as the go-to place for innovation expertise and skills in advanced manufacturing.”
He said the project was the product of collaboration – from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, Lancashire County Council, BEIS and the ERDF the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, as well as building contractor Robinson Group.
Lee Rowley, Minister for Industry at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, opening the hi-tech building, said: “Its a fantastic facility. My constituency is near Sheffield and I have seen the huge benefits that the AMRC there brought to that area.
"Lancashire has a rich manufacturing heritage and we are building on that tradition today, by creating even better advanced manufacturing aerospace, and other technologies, of tomorrow. It is a real opportunity and a fantastic promise for the future.
"This hub in Samlesbury will allow Lancashire firms to compete even more strongly, nationally and internationally and allow the creation of good quality jobs. Together with BAE Systems academy for skills, the National Cyber Security Force headquarters to come, the AMRC is going to really enhance the Samlesbury Enterprise zone.
"Lancashire’s cotton mills were a symbol of the first industrial revolution, and this centre is already a beacon for Lancashire’s new status as a new innovation hub.”
Andy Schofield, BAE Systems technology integration director, said: “BAE has had a really close relationship with the AMRC for 15 years. It provides a wonderful opportunity to deliver digital innovations that benefit supply chains, increase productivity and deliver high value manufacturing and engineering jobs her in the North West.”
County Councillor Jayne Rear, Cabinet member at Lancashire County Council who represented the council at the AMRC NW opening, said: "The Enterprise Zone is a dynamic and world-class destination in Lancashire's business offer and integral to the levelling up agenda."
AMRC North West was designed and project managed by architects BDP and the construction was carried out by Robertsons.