The Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry has outgrown its 12,000m2 facility less than one year after it opened. The centre is one of seven in the UK that make up the Technology Strategy Board's “catapult for high-value manufacturing,” which aims to ensure that scientific advances translate into British manufactured products.
In April last year the Coventry centre had just seven staff working on five projects. Today, the centre employs more than 80 people on 160 projects. The number of companies that are members of the centre has risen by a factor of 10 over the same period.
Clive Hickman, chief executive of the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), said: “When we were building the centre we were wondering what we were going to put in it. But the total work that we are doing and the interest from industry has been so large that we are already looking to double the size of the MTC.”
A bid for a 12,000m2 extension at the centre has already been submitted. A second bid has also been made for a 4,000m2 academy on site that will train 2,000 apprentices over the next 10-15 years.
Hickman said: “We know that all the small firms that are local to our area would love to take on apprentices but they can't see four years ahead on their order book so they won't take the risk. We'll take the risk and hopefully bring some good-quality trained apprentices into the market.”
Bridging the gap between academia and industry to create cutting-edge technologies in manufacturing is important if the UK is to remain competitive in the global economy.
Hickman said: “We have a fantastic world-class academic base, but UK plc has consistently failed to capitalise on early-stage research that comes out of universities.”
Opportunities for innovation in the future that should not be missed include ultra-large-diameter wind turbines, flexible plastic TVs, partial and full composite road vehicles, and low-cost batteries for electric vehicles, according to Hickman.
Missing out on commercialising such opportunities in the future would see manufacturing’s share of GDP remain at just 10%. Hickman said: “It used to be 25% and we would like to see it return to that level.”