University signs up for £43m factory in South Yorkshire

A UNVIERSITY has signed a deal to secure land which it is hoped will house a £43m factory in the former industrial heartland of South Yorkshire.

Artist's impression of Sheffield Business Park

In a move which will support plans to create a critical mass of hi-tech, advanced manufacturing businesses along the Parkway corridor, Sheffield University has signed a deal to secure 50 acres of land at Sheffield Business Park.

The site has been earmarked to build Factory 2050 - which is estimated to create 162 jobs during its construction and which it is hoped will be “the most advanced factory in the world.”

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Technologies including advanced robotics, flexible automation, unmanned workspace, off-line printing in virtual environments linked to plug-and-play robotics, 3D printing from flexible automated systems, man-machine interfaces, and new programming and training tools will be combined in the circular building.

The planned developments will build on the success of the university’s investment in the original Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) on the Advanced Manufacturing Park at Catcliffe. Since the original building opened in 2004, four further new buildings and two extensions have been added.

Keith Lilley, Sheffield University’s director of estates and facilities management, said the land deal was the key to the future for this increasingly important sector.

He said: “The success of the AMRC over the last few years has shown clearly the demand there is for this kind of specialist, hi-tech, high value engineering activity, and it was clear that we would soon outgrow the small amount of land still available on the existing Waverley site.

“Today’s deal opens the door to a fantastic opportunity which will allow us and our many partners the chance to build a hub of activity which will bring an enormous boost to the region. An independent survey of the economic benefits has demonstrated that, during construction, Factory 2050 will directly contribute £6.4 million to the local economy and create 162 jobs, with a much wider indirect economic impact.

“And once operational, it will directly contribute almost £2 million annually, as well as employing 75 people – with further significant indirect economic impact. And once the rest of the site starts to be developed, there will be massive economic benefits, both direct and indirect.”

The AMRC has played a pivotal role in attracting other hi-tech engineering businesses to the Advanced Manufacturing Park.

It is hoped the new location - directly opposite the existing developments on the other side of the Parkway - will help to secure Sheffield’s place at the heart of advanced manufacturing in the UK and as a key player on the global stage.

Plans for Factory 2050 were submitted to Sheffield City Council at the end of January and a decision is expected by April. A detailed master plan for the entire 50 acres will be submitted to the local authority’s planning department in spring.

The AMRC’s executive dean Professor Keith Ridgway, said: “We already have fantastic relationships with a number of leading aerospace and engineering companies and we’ve proved over the last decade that there is an enormous appetite from industry for the innovative work we do here.

“This significant expansion will put us in an even stronger position in terms of translating the research carried out by the University of Sheffield into practical applications which offer high tech solutions right across the manufacturing sector.”

The university has said Boeing, Airbus, Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems are committed to supporting the project.