A £1.5 million support boost has been unveiled to help English manufacturers enter or expand their presence in the growing nuclear sector.
Fit For Nuclear (F4N) is offering grants of around £10,000 to manufacturers in England that want to meet industry standards and compete for work in civil nuclear. F4N was developed by the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC) and is delivered in partnership with the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), now part of the Business Growth Service. The expanded programme including funding is supported by the Regional Growth Fund.
More than 5000 SMEs are needed to supply goods and services to the UK’s £60 billion civil nuclear new build programme and the continuing multi-billion pound decommissioning programme.
“Smaller manufacturers have a vital role to play in civil nuclear, if they can meet the standards demanded by the industry’s top tier,” said Mike Tynan, chief executive of the Nuclear AMRC.
“To win work, UK companies need to make sure they have the ability to meet safety, quality and cost standards, and can demonstrate that their specialist capabilities can deliver value to clients.
“We created Fit For Nuclear to help manufacturers close any gaps in performance, and this new funding will provide vital support for anyone taking the next steps and getting ready to compete for nuclear opportunities.”
The new F4N funding will allow management teams to drive business improvements in areas such as improved manufacturing processes, factory layout, bid writing, training plans and strategy.
Manufacturers can also apply for F4N funding to support R&D projects to optimise production or develop new processes and products, and can also access the Nuclear AMRC’s world-leading workshop capabilities in machining, welding, metrology and design support.
All projects must be completed by 31 March 2016, with firms urged to apply as soon as possible to secure a share of the funding.
“Almost 200 businesses have already embarked on Fit For Nuclear and more than 75 per cent of these have recorded immediate tangible bottom-line benefits,” explained Steven Barr, head of MAS.
“This is just the start and the current funding call will look to accelerate the number of companies getting involved. Nuclear is seen as a difficult sector to break into. Yes, requirements are different, but it’s not as problematic as some people make out.”
“F4N can take you throughout the entire journey, from the online capability check and on-site assessment, through to the generation of an action plan and a 50 per cent grant towards improvement or R&D projects.
“We’ve successfully worked with manufacturers involved in aerospace, automotive, electronics, marine and general fabrication, taking their core expertise and making them applicable to nuclear.”
The UK is leading the way in researching the challenges and opportunities posed by decommissioning, currently working on 17 sites dating back as far as the 1940s.
Going forward, the industry has outlined plans to construct around 16GW of new nuclear power stations in the UK by 2030, equating to a potential investment of £60 billion.
Backed by top tier partners including Areva and EDF Energy, Fit For Nuclear will give manufacturers a clearer understanding of supplier expectations, performance benchmarks, clarity on routes to market, and access to the unique manufacturing R&D capabilities of the Nuclear AMRC in Sheffield.
Barr continued: “Any English manufacturer employing 10 or more people and boasting over £1.6 million sales can apply to the new funding call.
“All they need to do is get in touch and one of our assessors will guide them on the application and a quick decision will be made to ensure companies have the best possible chance of taking advantage of the £60 billion-plus opportunity.”