A £35 million state-of-the-art teaching and research facility which engages directly with industry and provides students with real-world experience on live, engineering-related projects has been officially launched at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).
Based at the University’s Preston campus, the new Engineering Innovation Centre (EIC) will act as one of the driving forces behind the Lancashire Industrial Strategy as well as national industrial strategy, addressing the need for innovation and producing the next generation of world-class engineers.
Cutting-edge research and teaching facilities include an additive manufacturing lab (3D printing), an advanced manufacturing workshop, an intelligent systems facility, a motorsports and air vehicles lab, a high-performance computing lab, a flight simulator suite as well as a fire, oil and gas facility.
To date, the EIC is the largest single investment in Lancashire’s educational infrastructure establishing UCLan as one of the UK’s leading universities for engineering innovation.
Through courses shaped by industry demand and continuous collaboration, the Centre aims to improve productivity across the North West, helping to support the innovation needs of 1,300 regional small and medium enterprises now and in the future.
One teenager from Lancashire has already experienced how the EIC is helping to turn life changing ideas into reality. Burnley-based Krystyna Marshall, 16, invented the designs for an exoskeleton to support a young family member with a life-altering spinal condition. Working in collaboration with Krystyna, the University EIC team of academic staff and students have turned the exoskeleton designs into reality. The cost-effective 3D printed version of the exoskeleton is now being used as a proof of concept and could be developed for NHS use in the future.
Identified as a signature project within Lancashire’s Strategic Economic Plan, the EIC secured £10.5 million worth of funding via the Lancashire Enterprise Partnerships’ Growth Deal with the Government. The new facility has also received £5.8 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and £5 million from HEFCE’s STEM Capital Fund.
The EIC forms part of the University’s £200 million Masterplan, which also includes a new student support centre, improvements to the public realm and highways around the Adelphi roundabout as well as new social spaces facilities and a new multi-faith centre, all at the Preston campus.
Working in partnership together, SimpsonHaugh and Reiach and Hall Architects designed the EIC, which was built by main contractor, BAM Construction.
Professor Graham Baldwin, Vice-Chancellor at UCLan, said: “The provision of practice-based learning has always been a strength of this University and now, through the EIC and our links with industry, we will ensure our students gain exposure to even greater levels of applied, real-world learning. Our strategy is to ensure the University is at the forefront of future skills development enabling Lancashire and the North West region to lead the new ‘digital’ industrial revolution which is now upon us.”
David Taylor, Pro-Chancellor and Chair of the University Board, added: “The EIC is not only a significant asset to the University but also the county, wider region and the UK. It will act as one of the driving forces behind the industrial strategy both on a regional and national scale while cementing Lancashire’s position as a national centre of excellence for aerospace, advanced engineering and manufacturing.”
Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Rt Hon Jake Berry MP, said: “We are committed to boosting economic growth across the Northern Powerhouse and levelling up every place in the UK as we prepare to leave the EU on 31 October.
“Thanks to £10.5 million of investment from the Government’s Local Growth Fund, the University of Central Lancashire’s flagship Engineering Innovation Centre will play an important role in cementing the North’s long-standing reputation for world-class further education, scientific innovation and engineering excellence.
“The advances made and skills learned at this pioneering facility will have far-reaching benefits from equipping young people for well paid, highly skilled jobs to technological advances supporting manufacturing businesses throughout the North and around the world.”
Steve Fogg, Chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, added: “The LEP has invested £10.5m Growth Deal funding towards creating this world-class centre of excellence for high technology manufacturing which will support innovation in local businesses and supply the skilled and talented engineers they need to grow and succeed.
“Lancashire is already the country’s number one region for aerospace production and advanced manufacturing.
"By funding projects like the EIC, the development of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at the Samlesbury Aerospace Enterprise Zone and new education and training facilities across the county, the LEP is investing in the facilities and the skilled workforce of the future needed for the sector to maintain and build on its leading position, compete on the global stage and take advantage of opportunities in emerging markets.
“Our £320m investment programme is supporting strategically important projects like this all across Lancashire which, together, will drive substantial economic growth for years to come, create thousands of new jobs and homes and attract £1.2bn in private investment.”
Dame Sue Ion, Honorary President National Skills Academy for Nuclear and UCLan Board Member, said: “The EIC will play a key role in supporting Lancashire’s skills and employment strategic framework to increase the number of higher and degree apprentices in key priority areas with skills shortages.
“For example, the University’s acquisition of Training 2000, one of the largest private training charities in the UK, opens up a key educational pathway for students at a range of educational levels and will enable seamless access between the facilities in the EIC and Training 2000’s Advanced Manufacturing and Automation Centre.”
David Green, Partner, SimpsonHaugh and Lyle Christie, Director, Reiach and Hall Architects, added: “SimpsonHaugh and Reiach and Hall Architects were delighted to work on the Engineering Innovation Centre with the UCLAN team, AA projects and BDP.
“The completed building is testament to an engaged client with high ambitions for their university, city and region. We were acutely aware that this is the first building to come out of the new masterplan and the design had to set the tone for all of the developments which will follow.
“The completed building is intended as an open, accessible and welcoming facility and it is genuinely exciting to think of the new ideas and projects that will now emerge from the students, staff and businesses in the building. We hope this new building helps the university project the dynamic and exciting activities contained inside and helps encourage wide engagement in engineering.”