SCOTLAND’S manufacturing industry is expected to play a key role in the country’s economic recovery as companies start preparations for a “safe return to work”, Nicola Sturgeon has indicated. 

The Scottish Government has pledged an extra £20 million for the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) - which will help to rebuild the manufacturing sector amid the Covid-19 recovery. 

The announcement comes as a contract is signed between University of Strathclyde and Morrisons Construction to build the new NMIS facility, although construction work cannot begin until Scotland enters phase two of its routemap to exit the lockdown in a minimum of three weeks. 

Scottish Engineering has warned that four out of five companies in the sector think they will likely reduce employee numbers in the next six months as the fallout from the virus hammers the sector.

READ MORE: Delay in easing lockdown could hamper Scottish manufacturers

Construction of the NMIS will begin later this year and is anticipated to take 18 months, supporting more than 200 jobs. 

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We know and always have known that manufacturing is vital to Scotland, but that fact has been underlined in the past couple of months. 

“In that time, manufacturers across the country have stepped forward to help our response to this crisis. Many have repurposed or scaled-up their operations to meet demand for things like sand sanitiser and PPE. In doing that, they have helped  us to provide our frontline services with the supplies that they need. 

“Unfortunately, most of our manufacturing businesses will not be able to re-open until phase two of our routemap, however, during this first phase they will be able to start preparations for a safe return to work. We are determined to support our manufacturing industry as it prepares for that restart. We want to do everything we can to secure  and ensure its future success.” 

She added: “National Manufacturing institute will be operated by the University of Strathclyde and bring together expertise in academia and industry. It will allow businesses of all sizes to access research and development and ensure that Scotland remains at the forefront of advanced manufacturing. 

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon warns 'strict lockdown' could return as 'tough times still lie ahead'

“We know that a strong manufacturing sector is vital to our economic success. By investing now, we are preparing our economy for the challenges and also the opportunities of the post-Covid world.” 

An additional £15.8 million of investment has been announced as 12 projects as part of the Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund (AMCF) have been confirmed. 

The 12 projects, which include universities, colleges, third sector organisations and local authorities, will offer free services across the country to help small and medium-sized enterprises develop their manufacturing capabilities. 

Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Like many parts of the economy, manufacturing has been adversely affected by the impact of coronavirus, but the crisis has also demonstrated why we need a strong manufacturing sector, with many companies contributing to the national effort by re-purposing or scaling-up their activity to supply vital equipment to health and social care. 

“The Scottish Government is working with our partners to create a successful, vibrant and diverse manufacturing sector. The National Manufacturing Institute and the Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund both form a key part of that, helping companies across Scotland to develop skills, perfect the latest techniques, and push forward with cutting-edge research.” 

Scottish Enterprise managing director Linda Hanna added: “Helping manufacturers face new challenges and get back on track is our priority.  

“NMIS, as a national centre, combined with the depth and reach of these 12 Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund projects delivered at a local level, will be a fantastic resource to help SMEs across the length and breadth of Scotland embrace innovation and use new technologies to support their competitiveness. 

“A collaborative approach is vital to kick-start the economy, and it’s great to see this in action through both NMIS and the Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund projects to support the future of Scottish manufacturing.”