Construction work on the UK's new Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre was officially started this week by Her Majesty the Queen, who visited the site accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh.
The Nuclear AMRC is a collaboration between the Universities of Sheffield and Manchester, with the backing of the Government and of companies involved in building the new generation of civil nuclear power stations, such as Areva, Westinghouse, Rolls-Royce, Sheffield Forgemasters and Tata Steel Europe.
Based on the same collaborative model as the existing Sheffield AMRC with Boeing, the Nuclear AMRC is intended to help UK companies become global leaders in the production of nuclear power station components and systems. The NAMRC building will sit alongside the established AMRC Factory of the Future, on the Advanced Manufacturing Park at Rotherham in South Yorkshire - formerly a colliery site, this is now a national hub for high-technology manufacturing businesses.
The Queen donned a set of virtual reality glasses to remotely activate a digger from inside the AMRC's MANTRA (Manufacturing Transporter). MANTRA is a customised lorry and trailer designed to give aspiring young engineers a hands-on experience with state-of-the-art manufacturing technologies, including a 3D virtual reality system used for product design, simulation and training.
During their visit, Her Majesty and the Duke toured the Factory of the Future, and viewed research projects that AMRC researchers are leading for partner companies including Boeing, BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce. Her Majesty also met with AMRC apprentices to hear how they are benefiting from the apprenticeship programme.
"We are very proud to welcome Her Majesty to the AMRC at this very exciting time," said Professor Keith Ridgway, founder and research director of the AMRC and programme director of the Nuclear AMRC. "Over the past decade, the AMRC with Boeing has supported hundreds of manufacturing businesses and helped make sure that British engineering know-how can compete with the world's best. The Nuclear AMRC will take this technological excellence into new markets, and help British companies supply the new generation of power stations worldwide."
"The UK's nuclear programme is expected to create over 4,500 engineering jobs over the next 25 years and well over a £1bn a year to the industry," added Terry Hodgkinson, the head of local enterprise group Yorkshire Forward, which has invested in the NAMRC. "We are honoured that Her Majesty The Queen can join us today to launch the construction of the NAMRC. Today’s start on site cements Yorkshire and Humbers position as a centre of excellence for manufacturing, to a global marketplace, securing and creating jobs now and in the future."
The NAMRC is currently based in interim accommodation on the Advanced Manufacturing Park, while its new building is completed. The University of Manchester has also begun a major expansion of its research laboratories to house new manufacturing, testing and analytical research facilities for the NAMRC.
Lorry-borne advanced manufacturing demo goes on UK tour