The University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) has appointed a new Chief Operating Officer to head up its operations as it continues to grow as part of the new National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS).

Helen Lightbody graduated from the University of Strathclyde’s Department of Design, Manufacturing & Engineering Management (DMEM) in the early 1990s and boasts an engineering career that spans almost three decades.

After heading up various operational teams across Scottish industry leaders Babcock International, the Weir Group and Glenfield Group, Helen came full circle, recently joining the AFRC, which grew out of DMEM ten years ago, remaining part of it today.

In her role as Chief Operating Officer, Helen is helping lead the AFRC as it supports businesses large and small to embrace advanced manufacturing technologies, de-risk innovation and improve products and processes so that they can better compete.

Now is a pivotal time for the AFRC, which has grown from 12 to staff to over 170 within just 10 years. A specialist centre within the new £65m National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS), its facility is home to cutting-edge manufacturing technology and expertise. It will also soon house FutureForge, the world’s most advanced hot forging platform, which aims to transform one of manufacturing’s most traditional and important supply chains. 

Helen said: “The AFRC has grown at an exponential rate in the last 10 years and I’m thrilled to come on board to develop a clear strategy that will lead us on to further development and create even more opportunities for our customers. 

“The blend of academia and industry at the AFRC is unique and it’s what motivated me to grab the opportunity with both hands. I’m fully committed to building on the strengths, dedication and enthusiasm of the AFRC’s employees to enhance even further growth.”

Keith Ridgway, Executive Chair at the AFRC, said: “We’re thrilled to welcome Helen on board as Chief Operating Officer as we continue to support customers of all sizes across diverse industries, while building on existing capabilities, and growing as part of the wider NMIS offering. 

“Helen’s unrivalled skillset and experience across many different sectors directly compliments the ongoing work from each of the technical teams across the centre.”