The University of Strathclyde is today announcing that it is set to be involved in six of the Scottish Government’s Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund projects. Through the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS), the University will lead on two projects and colleagues across the University will support the development of four others.
Announced by the First Minister in May, the Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund projects will see £15.8 million invested in the development of free services across Scotland to help small and medium-sized companies develop their manufacturing capabilities and ultimately transform skills, productivity and innovation in Scotland’s manufacturing and engineering community.
The Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund is a partnership between the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Projects are part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Scottish Government and match-funding from each project, with Scottish Enterprise managing the Fund.
The two projects being led by the NMIS team at the University focus on upskilling the workforces of SME manufacturers across the country.
The first focuses on the key technology area of additive manufacturing. The project is set to de-risk innovation by providing companies with the knowledge required to make the correct business, technology and investment decisions in additive manufacturing and ultimately grow the Scottish supply chain around the development of this emerging technology.
Additive manufacturing is a transformative approach to manufacturing that uses the layering of materials to produce complex shapes without limitations. It enables companies to develop lightweight parts and often repair components that would otherwise be scrapped.
With support from organisations around the country, the team, led by Stephen Fitzpatrick, lead for machining and additive manufacturing at NMIS, is developing nine different business and technology support packages. Using these packages, companies will be taken on a technology adoption journey that suits their specific needs and objectives. With the exception of one package, all can be delivered virtually meaning companies can start their journey immediately regardless of location.
Speaking about the project Stephen Fitzpatrick said: “We aim to give the owners and directors of small manufacturing businesses in Scotland the confidence to invest in new additive manufacturing processes and technologies that will ultimately improve their business. This could be through improving the quality of output, increasing productivity, opening up new revenue streams or reducing waste.”
NMIS, through its Manufacturing Skills Academy, alongside colleagues in Strathclyde is also leading on a project to establish an online platform for the delivery of digital manufacturing and leadership courses for the manufacturing community.
Companies and their employees will be supported through a portfolio of content libraries and bespoke learning action plans that will be designed in collaboration with individual businesses.
The courses and learning plans will cover a wide variety of topics related to manufacturing in the digital-age including data science, visualisation technologies, cyber security, robotics and artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.
Project lead, Jose Hernandez, said: “Our ambition, through the online learning project, is to upskill the manufacturing workforce across Scotland by both using and building upon the expertise and skills that currently exist. This will lead to companies being more open to investing in and consequently benefiting from digital manufacturing technologies.”
NMIS and teams at Strathclyde are involved in three other projects alongside North Lanarkshire Council, New College Lanarkshire and South Ayrshire Council and Ayrshire College.
North Lanarkshire will see the creation of a manufacturing innovation hub that will link in with all that the NMIS Group has to offer. Meanwhile the South Ayrshire projects focus on the high-value aerospace sector with the development of a dedicated aerospace digital visualisation suite in collaboration with the NMIS digital manufacturing team and an aerospace supply chain development programme that will endeavour to break down the barriers to entry for smaller businesses.
Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, said: “The Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund is a key part of our efforts to create a successful, vibrant and diverse manufacturing sector that can continue to prosper despite the challenges of COVID-19. The expertise of the University of Strathclyde and NMIS will be crucial to help ensure the success of these six projects in supporting SMEs build their capabilities. I look forward to seeing the results of their work.”
Sarah Jardine, interim CEO of NMIS, said: “The National Manufacturing Institute Scotland is all about working collaboratively with industry, academia and the public sector to develop Scotland’s manufacturing businesses and the sector’s talented workforce. The Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund projects are a great example of that in action at a local level across the country.
“More than ever, it is crucial that businesses of all sizes, especially smaller companies that so often struggle to compete, are given the support they need to flourish – that is what the NMIS team is aiming to do through this cluster of projects.”
Strathclyde is also working with the Centre for Process Innovation, through the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre in which it is a partner, CMAC Future Manufacturing Research Hub and the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) on the SCOUT (Scottish Outreach) project. SCOUT will deploy technology to accelerate and de-risk the growth of Scottish SMEs working in the high-value chemical and biochemical supply chains.