Nuclear AMRC Midlands opens for business

Nuclear AMRC Midlands, a new research and innovation centre to support manufacturers across the region, has opened for business in the iHub at Infinity Park, Derby.

The new centre is a major expansion of the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, part of the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult.

Around 150 regional manufacturers and stakeholders attended the launch event at the iHub on Wednesday 13 February, to experience the state of the art in manufacturing R&D in the Nuclear AMRC’s new workshops, and join high-level speakers from industry and government to discuss the challenges facing manufacturers of all sizes.

Industry speakers included Dr Hamid Mughal, director of manufacturing at Rolls-Royce; Will Tanner, director of public affairs at Bombardier; and Neil Foreman, chief executive of Centronic, a new member company of the Nuclear AMRC.

Speakers from government included Craig Lester, deputy director of nuclear strategy at BEIS, presenting an update on the UK’s nuclear programme; and Councillor Chris Poulter, leader of Derby City Council, discussing regional innovation challenges.

Andrew Storer, chief executive officer of the Nuclear AMRC, said: “Our new facility in Derby gives us an incredible opportunity to work with manufacturers of all sizes operating in the most economically important industries across the Midlands. As well as helping companies win work in nuclear, the technologies we are developing can tackle the manufacturing challenges in automotive, rail, aerospace, renewable energy and many other high-value sectors.

“We have already helped dozens of Midlands-based manufacturers become Fit For Nuclear through our supply chain development programme, and want to collaborate with even more to support their ambitions to innovate and win work at home and worldwide.”

Minister for nuclear energy Richard Harrington said: “Derby is famous for setting in motion Britain’s Industrial Revolution with some of the country’s first factories and spinning mills. Now, as part of our modern Industrial Strategy, this new centre of cutting-edge nuclear technology will help to boost local jobs, growth and expertise. The centre could bring millions of pounds into the region through a thriving supply chain, to ultimately provide low-carbon nuclear electricity to millions of UK homes.”

The new facility is a collaboration between the Nuclear AMRC, Derby City Council and the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership.

Cllr Chris Poulter, Leader of Derby City Council said: “The opening of Nuclear AMRC Midlands is a great milestone for our city and for the wider region, and we know the benefits to the economy, businesses and residents will be huge over the coming years.

“By working with Nuclear AMRC, we will assist in job creation, supply chain development and business growth; as well as creating access to research and development facilities with the potential to increase productivity further and help translate academic research from the lab into the production line. We’re delighted that Derby has been chosen but particularly pleased that our own iHub facility is going to be their home.”

D2N2 is the private sector-led partnership of business, local authorities, skills and training providers, and community and voluntary services, which promotes jobs, business growth and the economy across Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. Infinity Park is one of four sites in the Nottingham & Derby Enterprise Zone, strategically overseen by D2N2. The LEP is allocating £12.9 million to develop Infinity Park’s infrastructure, over six years, from its Local Growth Fund allocation.

Elizabeth Fagan, chair of the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “With this Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre we are looking to the future; building on Derbyshire and the wider D2N2 LEP area’s reputation for manufacturing excellence. As part of D2N2’s Nottingham & Derby Enterprise Zone, we are investing heavily in Infinity Park Derby, making it an attractive place for innovative companies to locate to do business. The Nuclear AMRC will give small and medium-sized businesses access to leading technological expertise.”

Nuclear AMRC Midlands is initially based in two workshops and two office suites within iHub. The workshops act as flexible incubators for new manufacturing technologies, operating at an earlier level of manufacturing readiness than the Nuclear AMRC’s facilities in Rotherham and Birkenhead, and exploring new technology areas.

The larger workshop is a flexible incubator for new manufacturing technologies, with an emphasis on digitalisation. It is designed to host a series of reconfigurable manufacturing bays where advanced physical and digital equipment can be configured to meet the needs of industry customers.

Technologies on show at the launch event included additive manufacturing in a variety of polymers and metals; intelligent welding tools being developed through the Nuclear Innovation Programme; innovative sensors for aircraft, part of a project with member company Atlas Composites; and an interactive virtual model of an SMR module developed in partnership with Rolls-Royce and the AMRC.

The second workshop will develop the Nuclear AMRC’s capabilities in new technical areas including controls and instrumentation (C&I) and equipment qualification. The centre is working closely with member company Ultra Electronics on initial projects, and delegates were able to view a range of Ultra’s innovative technologies including safety-critical radiation and reactor core monitoring systems.

The facility will also act as a regional base for the centre’s supply chain development programme, allowing the Nuclear AMRC team to work more closely with companies across the UK’s manufacturing heartlands and help them become Fit For Nuclear.

The iHub facility is just the first phase of Nuclear AMRC Midlands. The centre continues to work with Derby City Council, the D2N2 LEP and industrial partners to develop proposals for a bespoke research facility of around 6,000 square metres on Infinity Park. The proposed centre will focus on later-stage development in technology areas which will deliver the maximum impact for the UK’s supply chain.

South West Nuclear Hub joins for regional collaboration

The South West Nuclear Hub, based at the University of Bristol, has joined the Nuclear AMRC as a member to promote research in one of the UK’s most important nuclear regions.

Launched in 2016, the South West Nuclear Hub provides a focus for the regional nuclear community. It brings together academia, industry and the supply chain to address technical challenges faced by the industry, and will play an increasingly important role as the construction and development of Hinkley Point C gathers pace.

Tier two membership of the Nuclear AMRC gives the Hub access to the centre’s manufacturing and materials research, and allow both organisations to work together to accelerate early-stage innovation into commercial reality.

The reciprocal arrangement also sees the Nuclear AMRC join the Hub’s membership of industrial and acadamic organisations.

“The Hub is incredibly proud to add the Nuclear AMRC to its membership as well as reciprocally joining the High Value Manufacturing Catapult network,” says Professor Tom Scott, co-director of the Hub.

“By partnering in research areas such as advanced materials, structural integrity, manufacturing and robotics,  we constitute a world-leading cluster of expertise. The timing is now perfect for us to promote nuclear energy as part of a low-carbon future for the UK.”

The two organisations are already collaborating through the High Value Manufacturing Catapult’s Researcher in Residence programme, with a fellowship awarded to the University of Bristol’s Dr Nico Larrosa to work with the centre on structural integrity for safety applications.

“Collaboration with the South West Nuclear Hub represents an exciting new opportunity for us to access world-leading nuclear research,” says Ross Barrable, strategic relations manager at the Nuclear AMRC. “By combining our knowledge and expertise we will be able to focus on accelerating materials and process innovation that will ultimately serve to enhance UK supply chain capabilities.

“We are pleased to welcome South West Nuclear Hub to our membership community, and we look forward to building a long successful relationship in the years to come.”