AMRC 'a great inspiration' for Scotland plans

06 September 2019

Scotland’s economy secretary Derek Mackay came to the AMRC this week to gain a deeper understanding of what could be achieved with his government’s plans for the £65m National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS).

The Member for Scottish Parliament toured the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) to see what NMIS could look like when complete and to learn from AMRC founder and executive dean Professor Keith Ridgway how it has become a global centre for research and manufacturing excellence in less than two decades, and is now a powerful magnet for inward investment and a key provider of industry-led skills and training.

Mr Mackay’s first stop on his fact-finding mission was the AMRC’s flagship Factory 2050, the place where digital meets manufacturing; de-risking digital Industry 4.0 technologies to show manufacturers how they can be used to drive innovation, increase workforce skills and boost business growth.

Projects he saw included Project RAID, a research cell which uses advanced technologies such as robotics, automation and control, integrated metrology, digitally assisted assembly, manufacturing informatics and data visualisation to show how these can be tailored to any complex full assembly process and fuel improvements in productivity.

Economy Secretary Derek Mackay said he was delighted to visit the AMRC: “The centre, and the work it is doing, has been a great resource of inspiration as we develop our own £65 million National Manufacturing Institute Scotland. I am grateful to Professor Ridgway for the support he continues to provide us as we develop our plans for our centre in Renfrewshire.

"We remain focused on ensuring the services NMIS offers business will be at the cutting edge of technological advances, as well as providing practical and accessible support to the wider manufacturing sector through R&D and skills development."

Mr Mackay met with AMRC Training Centre apprentices during his visit to the AMRC campus.

Mr Mackay also visited AMRC’s Factory of the Future to see the work of the Machining Group and Composite Centre, and was taken on a tour of the AMRC Training Centre led by apprentices Rebecca Wright, Saeed Mohammad, Ben Lovell and Harry Perks.

They told him why they chose an apprenticeship and how it benefits them in their jobs. He also got to try his hand at virtual welding, specialist kit that uses virtual reality to train apprentices.

Part of the plans for NMIS is to create a skills academy to provide advanced manufacturing training and upskilling for individuals at all levels of their career.

Nikki Jones, Director of the AMRC Training Centre, told Mr Mackay how it plays a crucial role in developing and sustaining the skills wanted by industry and that 70 per cent of its employer base are SME businesses. She also explained that demand for engineering apprenticeships was high with a record-breaking number of applications for places topping more than 800.

She said: “What our employers say is that when apprentices leave here they are productive from day one. They are competent on the shop floor. That intense training upfront, and the investment that employers make, is really valuable.

“Our staff here are people who have been in industry for many years, we’ve got teachers some of whom come from the AMRC so they’ve done the research and have their PhDs.”

Mr Mackay hears from apprentice Saeed Mohammad about why he chose an apprenticeship.

Nikki explained how the centre invests in Industry 4.0, digital skills desired by industry, such as robotics coding training which allows apprentices to hit the ground running when they start in company.

Rebecca, a second year technical support apprentice employed with the AMRC Integrated Manufacturing Group at Factory 2050, who is a regional finalist in the National Apprentice Awards, told Mr Mackay: “For me doing this course has helped me in my job at Factory 2050. It means I can just jump on a robot and if they need me to do something I can do it.

“The skills are quite simple but you build it up over time and you get introduced to different robots to do different coding. Essentially the training centre gives you the right skills and knowledge going into company.”

The economy secretary tried his hand at virtual welding on the same equipment used to train apprentices.

Manufacturing is of huge importance to Scotland’s economy, employing over 185,000 people and accounting for more than half of its international exports and business R&D.

The National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) is being established as part of a commitment to support and grow the country’s diverse manufacturing base, and to make Scotland a recognised producer as well as consumer of goods. Professor Ridgway has played a key role in the design and planning of the new facilities and is a close advisor on advanced manufacturing for the Scottish government and Scottish Enterprise.

“The future of advanced manufacturing in the UK depends upon successful and growing R&D collaboration with industry and across the regions and nations,” said Professor Ridgway.

“As part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the AMRC works closely with the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre to create a more vibrant and resilient manufacturing base. It’s great to see the idea of an Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District take shape in Scotland – just as it is taking shape here in Rotherham and Sheffield."

The aim is to make NMIS an industry-led international centre of manufacturing expertise. Industry, research and the public sector will work together to transform skills, productivity and innovation to attract investment and make Scotland a global leader in advanced manufacturing. 

The core facilities will be located close to Glasgow Airport and the Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC), and comprise a digital factory to develop the processes and technologies to address companies’ manufacturing challenges or opportunities; a skills academy to provide advanced manufacturing training and upskilling for individuals at all levels of their career; and a collaborative space to enable companies and their supply chain to work on new projects without disrupting existing production lines.

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