The Centre for Engineering Education and Development (CeeD), the acclaimed business-to-business body that works to boost manufacturing productivity and profitability in Scotland, is to expand its operations across the country to provide support to the manufacturing, engineering, science and technology sectors.

The not-for-profit member organisation, founded in 2003 on a template derived from a US scheme, brings together business and academics across the manufacturing sectors and pools their experience and knowledge to help achieve operational excellence. The service is mainly delivered through "clinics", often hosted by blue-chip member companies, offering practical advice.

Currently based in Blantyre in Lanarkshire with around 120 members, CeeD now intends to increase that to around 750 members, and will launch new "hubs" in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Perth and Inverness to cover the whole of Scotland. The expansion plans are being part-supported by Scottish Enterprise, which is providing funding of £325,000.

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Gill Gray, CeeD's business development manager, told the Sunday Herald: "Our organisation has always had ambitions to expand across Scotland and to enhance our range of services. This investment by Scottish Enterprise enables us to achieve this."

John McDougall, CeeD chairman, said: "Our expansion will be in three phases over the next three years. Longer term, we estimate the potential total of prospective members to be around 12,500 manufacturing and engineering companies across Scotland, with more than 250,000 employees.

"We're looking to extend our impact across Scotland, and to engage with a broader range of small to medium-sized companies. We will also be offering a range of enhanced services to our members - and a broad range of support with the challenges that affect our members on a daily basis.

"We never know what will turn up next. But someone, somewhere in the community has the expertise or experience to help. It's all about learning from each other, sharing best practice and working together."

While economic forecasts for the UK and Scotland continue to suggest the long-term trend for employment in manufacturing is in decline, the sector remains an important generator of wealth, a source of export earnings and a provider of highly skilled and well-paid jobs. In Scotland, it accounts for 63% of research and development activity.

Neil Francis, senior director of technology and advanced engineering at Scottish Enterprise, said the announcement was "great news".

He added: "The support mechanisms CeeD has created are trusted and valued by member companies across the west of Scotland. They're the ideal platform from which to support innovation across the engineering sector."

CeeD has been supported by some of the leading lights of Scottish manufacturing, including Colin Robertson of bus manufacturer Alexander Dennis, and Jim McColl, the boss of Clyde Blowers.