US aerospace giant ties up with Scots engineering centre

An Airbus A350 fixed leading edge is assembled at Spirit's Prestwick factory. Picture: Guy Hink
An Airbus A350 fixed leading edge is assembled at Spirit's Prestwick factory. Picture: Guy Hink
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A US aerospace giant is joining forces with a Scottish hi-tech manufacturing research hub in a move to help shape the future of aircraft development.

Spirit AeroSystems, which employs about 1,000 people in Prestwick, has teamed up with the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) to work together on new technologies which will also help the UK supply chain address key challenges facing the industry.

The collaboration will see Spirit become the first major company to run projects based at the Scottish Government’s new £8.9 million Lightweight Manufacturing Centre (LMC) at Inchinnan.

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, principal of the university, said it had been working closely with the team at Spirit’s Prestwick site for a number of years and that the move is “testament to the growing appetite for innovation in the sector”.

“It’s a very exciting time for manufacturing in Scotland,” McDonald added.

The partnership will see staff from Spirit, which produces components including wing packages for a number of Airbus models, work with teams of engineers and researchers from the AFRC, which last year secured £96m in funding from the UK government, on areas including metallic and composites fabrication.

The work also aims to accelerate the time taken to progress technologies from the research and development stage through to production and commercial flight.

Sean Black, Spirit AeroSystems’ vice-president of research and technology, said: “On top of developing and accessing emerging technologies, this collaboration will give Spirit an incredible opportunity to tap into the university’s student and post-graduate talent pool to directly contribute to the design and manufacture of next-generation wing and fuselage structures.”

The LMC, which will develop new manufacturing processes for lightweight materials such as titanium and carbon fibre, is seen as the first step towards creating the new National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland (NMIS).

The institute aims to help the country become a global leader in advanced manufacturing.

Cabinet secretary for the economy, Derek Mackay, said: “I am delighted to see Spirit Aero Systems becoming the first major customer at the LMC, which is starting to deliver for companies now.

“The centre is a key part of our investment in the £65m NMIS as we take steps to develop an industry-led international centre of manufacturing expertise in Scotland where research, industry and the public sector will work together to transform skills, productivity and innovation”.

Spirit is currently investing in an Aerospace Innovation Centre at its Prestwick site which will open in 2020.

The investment in the centre is expected to create 40 high-value jobs.