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

Published 15th April 2014 at 1:36pm

PLANS to create the most advanced factory in the world in the heartland of Sheffield City Region are afoot.

Sheffield University has chosen Sheffield Business Park, on Sheffield City Region’s Enterprise Zone for the location of the £43m project.

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

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.

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.

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.

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 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.”

It is set to be complete near the end of the year, and an independent survey has predicted the construction process alone will directly contribute £6.4m and 162 jobs to the economy.

The factory could contribute £1.9m annually and employ up to 60 people when fully operational.

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.