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25th August 2020, Wales

UK opposition leader praises composites centre

Sir Keir Starmer (right) during the tour of the AMRC Cymru. Image: AMRC.Sir Keir Starmer (right) during the tour of the AMRC Cymru. Image: AMRC.

The future of advanced manufacturing in the UK hinges on investment in applied research, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said on a recent visit to the Welsh Government’s £20 million R&D facility in North Wales run by the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

Sir Keir toured the facility – next door to the Airbus wing manufacturing plant in Broughton – with the Welsh Government’s First Minister, Mark Drakeford, and Shadow Chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, where the Labour leader discussed the future of jobs at the plant with Airbus executives.

“What you see at AMRC Cymru is the future of manufacturing and I think that is very inspiring,” said Sir Keir. “If the research and development here is top class, which it is, then that means that those highly-skilled jobs will stay in North Wales.”

The Labour trio were shown presentations on how the AMRC is working alongside Airbus on its Wing of Tomorrow programme as well as how engineers at the AMRC utilised Industry 4.0 technologies such as Discrete Event Simulation, automation and virtual reality to pivot their operation to mass-produce thousands of medical ventilators.

They were also shown the AMRC’s capabilities in additive manufacturing, advanced fibres and fabrics, augmented reality, hydrogen, composites, robotics and a new package of work being done alongside Food and Drink Wales.

“Manufacturing and advanced manufacturing is very important to the UK economy. My dad was a tool maker in manufacturing and he impressed on me the importance of making things. What I have been really pleased to see in the last few years is how manufacturing has moved on so much – it is why we need to work now to preserve those jobs.

“We have moved from a manufacturing sector that didn’t, in my opinion, work particularly well decades ago, to a manufacturing system which is smart and world-leading; we need to retain that.

“The manufacturing sector needs to be underpinned by R&D. We wouldn’t be where we are without R&D and we won’t be where we need to be in a decade without it. Without R&D you are actually suffocating manufacturing.”

AMRC Cymru was opened in November 2019, backed by a £20 million investment from the Welsh Government, and is the first High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult centre in Wales. AMRC Cymru operates a 2,000 square metre open access research area with Airbus the first major tenant with a platform to develop its next generation wing technologies aligned to its ‘Wing of Tomorrow’ programme.

In March 2020 AMRC Cymru was transformed into a production facility for life-saving medical ventilators by the industrial consortium Ventilator Challenge UK. In fewer than two weeks, the state-of-the-art research institute was stripped out to allow 88 operators to work simultaneously while maintaining safe social distancing and allowing shift breaks and lunch times.

 “What we learnt from the Ventilator Challenge UK consortium was the adaptability of manufacturing to go from building the wings of aeroplanes to ventilators in a matter of days,” said Mr Starmer. “On top of that, thinking through the supply chains in the middle of a lockdown was quite incredible.”


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