The first major cog in the University of Central Lancashire’s £200m campus redevelopment masterplan is now officially ready for business.
Costing £35m, the Engineering Innovation Centre is officially opening today at an event packed with education and industry leaders today.
The teaching and research facility which will work directly with industry and provide students with real-world experience on live, engineering-related projects, is the first of its kind in the region.
It is currently the largest single investment in Lancashire’s educational infrastructure, aimed at establishing UCLan as one of the UK’s leading universities for engineering innovation.
Based at the main Foster campus, the IEC is being hailed as one of the driving forces behind both the Lancashire Industrial Strategy and the national industrial strategy, addressing the need for innovation and producing the next generation of world-class engineers.
Courses will be tailored to meet demands from industry and the centre aims to improve productivity across the North West, helping to support the innovation needs of 1,300 regional small and medium enterprises now and in the future.
University vice-chancellor, Professor Graham Baldwin, said: “The provision of practice-based learning has always been a strength of this University and now, through the EIC and our links with industry, we will ensure our students gain exposure to even greater levels of applied, real-world learning.
“Our strategy is to ensure the university is at the forefront of future skills development enabling Lancashire and the North West region to lead the new ‘digital’ industrial revolution which is now upon us.”
Pro vice-chancellor and chairman of the university board, David Taylor, added: “The EIC is not only a significant asset to the university but also the county, wider region and the UK. It will act as one of the driving forces behind the industrial strategy both on a regional and national scale while cementing Lancashire’s position as a national centre of excellence for aerospace, advanced engineering and manufacturing.”
The centre received £10.5m worth of funding via the Lancashire Enterprise Partnerships’ Growth Deal with the Government. The new facility has also received £5.8m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and £5m from HEFCE’s STEM Capital Fund.
It is a key part of the university’s £200m masterplan, which also includes a new student support centre, improvements to the public realm and highways around the Adelphi roundabout as well as new social spaces facilities and a new multi-faith centre, all at the Preston campus.
Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Jake Berry, said: “We are committed to boosting economic growth across the Northern Powerhouse and levelling up every place in the UK as we prepare to leave the EU.
“Thanks to £10.5m of investment from the Government’s Local Growth Fund, the University of Central Lancashire’s flagship Engineering Innovation Centre will play an important role in cementing the North’s long-standing reputation for world-class further education, scientific innovation and engineering excellence.
“The advances made and skills learned at this pioneering facility will have far-reaching benefits from equipping young people for well paid, highly skilled jobs to technological advances supporting manufacturing businesses throughout the North and around the world.”
Steve Fogg, chairman of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, added: “The LEP has invested £10.5m Growth Deal funding towards creating this world-class centre of excellence for high technology manufacturing which will support innovation in local businesses and supply the skilled and talented engineers they need to grow and succeed.
He said Lancashire is already the country’s number one region for aerospace production and advanced manufacturing and added: “By funding projects like the EIC, the development of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at the Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone and new education and training facilities across the county, the LEP is investing in the facilities and the skilled workforce of the future needed for the sector to maintain and build on its leading position, compete on the global stage and take advantage of opportunities in emerging markets.
“Our £320m investment programme is supporting strategically important projects like this all across Lancashire which, together, will drive substantial economic growth for years to come, create thousands of new jobs and homes and attract £1.2bn in private investment.”