Scottish manufacturing has been handed a major boost with £16.5 million funding to help create the "forge of the future" and develop new ways of making metals for industry.

The award will mean academics at the advanced hot forging research platform at Strathclyde University's Advanced Forming Research Centre will work alongside companies in the aerospace, automotive, oil and gas, nuclear and rail industries to boost their competitiveness and high value manufacturing capability.

It is expected to generate around £40m of collaborative R&D projects over 10 years, creating 34 jobs.

The university said a new advanced engineering facility will put Scotland at the front of the movement to transform one of the manufacturing sector’s most traditional and important supply chains.

Called FutureForge, it will adjoin the world-renowned Renfrewshire-based AFRC and it is claimed it will 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 demonstrator for industry 4.0, the technological framework intended to transform manufacturing plants into “smart factories” of the future.

It will be funded by the UK Aerospace Research and Technology Programme - delivered by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Innovate UK and the Aerospace Technology Institute - Scottish Enterprise and through the AFRC’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult support.


Above: How FutureForge will look

Ivan McKee, Scottish Government Minister for trade, investment and innovation, said the move will make this country a leader in the race to tap into new ways of manufacturing.

He said: "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."

ANALYSIS: Smart factories will help forge Scotland's future

He said: "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, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Strathclyde, said the 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".

He said: “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, above, said the move marks "an exciting time for advanced engineering and manufacturing in Scotland".

He said that the country’s reputation as being the "go-to place" for the development of the next generation of manufacturing technologies is strengthening, adding the centre is "at the heart of all manufacturing R&D in the country and the FutureForge facility will see us transform the £209 billion global forging supply chain".

Mr Ridgway declared: "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.

"This project really will help secure the future of an industry that is vitally important to the wider manufacturing sector across the globe.”

ANALYSIS: Smart factories will help forge Scotland's future

Linda Hanna, managing director of strategy and sectors at Scottish Enterprise, said: “Scotland is already leading the way across the UK in metal forming research, manufacturing technology and innovation.

"This investment, however, will develop a unique forging capability, not available anywhere else in the world.

"It will help companies across Scotland develop next generation light weight products and give them increased competitive advantage in a global market place."

Liz Cameron, chief executive and director at Scottish Chambers of Commerce said: "This is a clear demonstration of us playing to our strengths, as we look to seize global opportunities.

"This model of heightened collaboration between our higher education institutions, business and the public sector once again highlights what is achievable when we all work towards an ambitious shared vision.”