£43m project to build the most advanced factory in the world

PLANS to create the most advanced factory in the world in the former industrial heartland of South Yorkshire will be unveiled later this week.
The existing Advanced Manufacturing Park in RotherhamThe existing Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham
The existing Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham

Sheffield University has chosen Sheffield Business Park for the location of the £43m project and will submit a planning application to Sheffield City Council in the coming days.

The university said manufacturers including Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and Spirit AeroSystems have committed to support the project, dubbed Factory 2050.

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Professor Keith Ridgway, executive dean at the university’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), said: “Our ambition is for Factory 2050 to be the most advanced factory in the world.

“This is part of our long-term development in high value manufacturing which is an area that this region is an international lead.”

The project is being seen as an extension of the AMRC, located close by at the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham.

In the longer term, Sheffield leaders are hoping to attract Rolls-Royce to the new factory to develop its next generation of Trent aerospace engines.

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Rolls-Royce is already developing a ‘factory of the future’ to create turbine blades for jet engines at the AMP.

Factory 2050 promises to offer state-of-the art technologies in fields including advanced robotics, flexible automation, unmanned workspace and off-line programming in virtual environments.

Around 50 researchers and engineers will work in the new facility, which will have an area of 14,400 sq ft and be built to the highest environmental standards.

The building will be made largely from glass to showcase the advanced manufacturing technologies being developed inside.

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Academics and industry backers want Factory 2050 to be the UK’s first fully reconfigurable assembly and component manufacturing facility for collaborative research. They say it will be capable of rapidly switching production between different high-value components and one-off parts.

Paul Firth, chairman of the Creative Sheffield economic development agency, told the Yorkshire Post that the “fantastic” Factory 2050 will put Sheffield at the forefront of high-end manufacturing.

He said: “It is a major part of the strategy for the Sheffield city region economy and it completely fits with the Government agenda of bringing manufacturing home, of reshoring, by doing things smarter, more efficiently and adding value to products.”

Sheffield Business Park is located close to junctions 33 and 34 of the M1 motorway and five minutes from Sheffield city centre.

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It is a stone’s throw from the AMP, which is home to tenants including Dormer Tools, Mori Seiki, Sandvik Coromant, TWI, X-Cel Superturn and Xeros.

Professor Ridgway and businessman Adrian Allen launched the AMRC in 2001 as a £15m collaboration between Sheffield University and aerospace giant Boeing, with support from Yorkshire Forward and the European Regional Development Fund.

The AMRC moved to the Advanced Manufacturing Park as anchor tenant in 2004.

Prof Ridgway said: “The AMRC has enjoyed phenomenal success since it opened and there simply isn’t enough space left on the current site to support the scale of development which will be necessary to meet demand in the coming years.

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“The benefits of beginning the next phase of growth just over the other side of the Parkway will be significant in terms of maximising opportunities for collaborative working, facilitating integration between the growing number of inter-connected activities, and underpinning the enormous potential for economic development offered by this sector.

“The Sheffield City Region has already established itself as a major force in the advanced manufacturing sector and Factory 2050 is a vital step in taking us to the next level.”

Like the AMP, Sheffield Business Park is located in the Sheffield City Region’s Local Enterprise Zone, which offers a package of financial, planning and support incentives to tenants.

The area has strong industrial – and political – heritage. The former coal-mining country was the scene for one of the most bitter confrontations of the 1984 miners’ strike in the so-called Battle of Orgreave.

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The AMRC launched its new apprentice training centre on Thursday with local growth minister Kris Hopkins declaring that despite the trauma and difficult times of 30 years ago, Sheffield and Rotherham “have been able to go some way better” with the new facility.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England is providing a £10m grant. The university is hopeful of attracting another £10m from the European Regional Development Fund.