Strathclyde’s FutureForge will put Scotland ‘at forefront’ of industry 4.0

advancedStrathclyde University’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) has secured £16.5m to establish an advanced engineering facility that aims to put Scotland at the forefront of the latest industrial revolution, helping traditional manufacturing embrace the latest in digital technologies.

FutureForge, funded by the UK Aerospace Research and Technology Programme, Scottish Enterprise, and the AFRC’s High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult, will adjoin the Renfrewshire-based centre and will, said the university in a statement, “revolutionise the global hot forging sector”.

Set to begin operating in 2020, FutureForge will be the world’s most advanced hot forging research platform and will include a “one-of-a-kind, industry 4.0 ready, demonstrator”.

It will see the AFRC work with companies in the aerospace, automotive, oil and gas, energy, nuclear, and rail industries helping companies to increase their global competitiveness. The facility will help generate around £40m of new collaborative research development projects over 10 years.

Speaking about the announcement, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation Ivan McKee said: “I’m delighted to see this latest development for the AFRC.

“The new facility will put Scotland at the forefront of the latest industrial revolution, helping some of the most traditional manufacturing businesses and their supply chains embrace the latest in digital technologies.”

“When I visited the centre last month, I was able to hear first-hand how the funding will be invested to develop this world leading technological capability.

“Today’s news follows our announcement eight months ago that we are investing in a £65m National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland (NMIS) in Renfrewshire, also in partnership with the University of Strathclyde.

“This latest project by the AFRC in the region highlights once again the importance of Scotland as a centre for cutting-edge manufacturing technology, and demonstrates our world leadership ambitions.”

Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Strathclyde’s principal and vice-chancellor, said: “This new facility will be a real asset for the AFRC and its business partners, bolstering its already impressive capabilities and enabling further research collaborations to produce tangible impact for industry.

“It demonstrates Strathclyde’s commitment to working together with industry on research, development and innovation and making Scotland a leading centre of manufacturing excellence.”

Professor Keith Ridgway, Executive Chair at the AFRC added: “This is an exciting time for advanced engineering and manufacturing in Scotland.”

“This is the third big announcement in the past year and the country’s reputation as being the go-to place for the development of the next generation of manufacturing technologies is strengthening.

“The FutureForge facility will see us transform the $268 billion global forging supply chain. Taking it from a black-art with centuries of tradition and turning it into a competitive industry with advanced digitised capabilities fit for centuries to come.”

The news coincided with an announcement by the UK Government that Britain’s researchers and entrepreneurs will benefit from an additional £780m “to create the technologies of tomorrow”.

The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, said it would expand the UK’s catapult centres “which are fuelling innovation across the country as part of the UK’s ambitious, modern Industrial Strategy. This new funding backs Britain’s brightest talent – supporting work in high-tech labs, cutting-edge factories and advanced training centres”.