Boost to create new high skilled manufacturing jobs in Wales
A £26m investment to grow Wales' manufacturing industry, boost take-up of state of the art technology, creating more than 130 highly skilled jobs and safeguarding hundreds more was announced by Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones today (Thursday, October 14).
The ASTUTE (Advanced Sustainable manUfacturing TEchnologies) project will target the aerospace and automotive sectors, as well as other high technology manufacturing, to create sustainable, higher value goods and services and bring them to a global market.
Led by Swansea University, in collaboration with the Universities of Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Glyndwr, Swansea Metropolitan, UWIC, and the University of Wales, Newport, it is aimed at helping the manufacturing industry face the challenges of the 21st century and will assist 350 enterprises and help 40 collaborative R&D projects get off the ground.
Made possible with £14m from the Convergence European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Assembly Government with additional funding coming from higher education institutions, it is expected to induce an investment of £4m and launch 120 new or improved products, processes or services.
The project will improve the competitiveness of Welsh companies by applying Advanced Engineering techniques to both the design of products and to the manufacturing process thus securing many jobs and leading to the initial creation of more than 130 highly skilled new jobs in the sector.
Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said: "We want manufacturing in Wales to continue to be a major part of our economy and to be able to compete on the global stage. This project is part of our drive to make Welsh manufacturing fit to face the demands of the modern world compete in high value markets.
“Our new policy, ‘Economic Renewal: A New Direction’ gives a commitment to increase Research & Development by helping universities and business work together. We also want to encourage take up of advanced technologies to develop goods and services that can be sold across the world and secure the future of the industry. Let me be clear, advanced manufacturing has a bright future in Wales and we will do all we can to support it.”
The five year project represents a partnership between the Welsh Universities active in this sector and the project funding will be used primarily to fund staff to work with companies to carry out assessments of their current practices and to work with them to suggest and investigate innovations that will deliver tangible benefits. This will include helping companies to lower their carbon footprint and operate in a more sustainable way.
The project team will be targetting companies both large and small from across West Wales and the Valleys and interested companies can contact them via the new Project Office based in Swansea University’s School of Engineering.
Professor Richard B Davies, Swansea University’s Vice-Chancellor, said that the Partnership was delighted to have secured such a timely project.
“It focuses on building a stronger manufacturing sector in Wales, developing a more resilient economy as we emerge out of recession,” he said.
“We are enthusiastic at Swansea about our coordination role. This will enable our world-class engineering research to be linked more closely to companies in Wales. However, by working together with other universites in Wales, it will be possible to mobilise massive advanced engineering support for manufacuting industry in the Convergence Area with a breadth of expertise impossible in any single university.
“The intention is to build a dynamic infrastructure for innovation across Wales by networking universities and industry, and creating a fertile environment for collaborative projects.”
The project is led by Professor Mark Cross of Swansea University’s School of Engineering, who added: “We are very pleased to have been successful in gaining this grant. This project is very significant for the Partnership as it enables us to focus on the needs of industry and to work with companies to develop solutions which are fit for purpose.
“The strong Partnership consists of eight Universities with a range of skills across a broad spectrum of engineering and science and so together we are able to address many of the technical challenges facing Welsh companies.
Professor Hans Sienz, Deputy Director of the project, added: “In Wales, we estimate that the manufacturing sector contributes around £32 billion to the economy and employs around 193,000 people. Our aim is to engage with as many companies as possible, particularly in the high value sectors of aerospace, automotive and electronic engineering to help companies to find ways of improving their competitveness leading to the creation of new jobs.”
Photo: Pictured above are, left to right, Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones, Swansea University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard B Davies, and Head of the School of Engineering Professor Javier Bonet.