Major R&D boost as £16.5m facility heads for Scotland

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A major new engineering facility to help manufacturing businesses seize opportunities from digital technologies is to be set up in Scotland on the back of a £16.5 million funding boost, it was revealed today.

The University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) – a centre of excellence for manufacturing – has secured the backing to set up the site focused on revolutionising the forging process which is crucial to companies across industries including oil and gas, automotive, nuclear and rail.

Businesses across Scotland will be able to access the facility to use the latest forging techniques to develop next generation lightweight metal products.

The “FutureForge” facility is being funded by backers including the UK Aerospace Research and Technology Programme and Scottish Enterprise and will be developed next to the AFRC at Inchinnan, Renfrewshire.

The facility aims to help stimulate around £40m of R&D projects over ten years, creating up to 34 new jobs.

Ivan McKee, the Scottish Government’s minister for trade, investment and innovation, said the new facility will put Scotland at the “forefront of the latest industrial revolution”.

“It will be helping some of the most traditional manufacturing businesses and their supply chains embrace the latest in digital technologies,” he said.

Set to begin operating in 2020, FutureForge is described as the world’s most advanced hot forging research facility and will include a bespoke 2,000-tonne hydraulic press.

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, principal of the university, said: “This new facility will be a real asset for the AFRC and its business partners, bolstering its already impressive capabilities and enabling further research collaborations to produce tangible impact for industry.

“It demonstrates Strathclyde’s commitment to working together with industry on research, development and innovation and making Scotland a leading centre of manufacturing excellence.”

The news follows the Scottish Government’s announcement eight months ago that it is investing in a £65m National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland (NMIS) in partnership with the university.

Professor Keith Ridgway, executive chair at the AFRC, said the announcement was the latest in a series of major investments in advanced engineering and manufacturing in Scotland.

“The country’s reputation as being the go-to place for the development of the next generation of manufacturing technologies is strengthening. The FutureForge facility will see us transform the $268 billion (£208bn) global forging supply chain, taking it from a black-art with centuries of tradition and turning it into a competitive industry with advanced digitised capabilities fit for centuries to come.”