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New project to kick-start regional growth

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Published on 25 May 2018

l-r Claire Defty, Roger O'Brien and Professor Elaheh Ghassemieh
l-r Claire Defty, Roger O'Brien and Professor Elaheh Ghassemieh

We have secured £5.1m to deliver our Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing project, which is set to create jobs and unlock growth in the region. 

The pioneering scheme will enable the region’s manufacturing base of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to be more productive and sustainable by finding solutions to their research, innovation and development challenges and helping them to develop their products, processes and technology.

The University of Sunderland has received £2.6m from the European Regional Development Fund towards the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing project, with additional contributions from industry and the University.

The project will deliver innovation support to manufacturing companies in the North East by:

  • Working closely with companies across the entire advanced manufacturing spectrum to establish where innovation is most urgently needed
  • Developing new products that enable further scale-up into national supply chains and export markets
  • Addressing key challenges in manufacturing process innovation through collaboration within smart specialisation areas – using larger regional companies to initiate opportunities for collaborative projects with the potential to open up new markets and business opportunities for regional SMEs
  • Connecting SMEs to specialist staff and academics that will undertake needs analysis, knowledge or technology transfer, collaborative research and validate new technologies
  • Enhancing the innovation capacity of businesses by providing networks, infrastructure and shared facilities that enable effective collaboration, as well as provide access to platforms for testing, developing and validating new technologies.

The project will have a significant emphasis on sustainability and digital manufacturing. In addition to providing access to the University’s facilities and expertise, the project will enable access to its wide range of academic, research and technical networks.

University of Sunderland Vice-Chancellor, Shirley Atkinson, commented: “Through the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing project our University’s highly experienced engineering team will support SMEs with research and help to develop solutions to the challenges and barriers they face. This project is the next step towards realising our ambition to be the North East’s lead university for Advanced Manufacturing and we’re excited to get started on unlocking the region’s latent growth potential.

“By placing our University at the forefront of SME research and development we will not only enable these businesses to grow and unlock opportunities, we will also help improve the sector’s productivity and sustainability as well as create opportunities for our students and graduates. The University is now adding to its excellent team of staff involved in applied research in the Faculty of Technology to ensure we are best able to support our industry partners. Maximizing the benefit of innovations in the automotive, engineering and computing sectors to ensure the region remains competitive and world leading, is key to our future plans.”

Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing Project Manager, Claire Defty, added: “My role is to engage with the North East LEP area’s SMEs and encourage them to apply for grants and work with the University to develop solutions and research that will help to move their business to the next level. With colleagues in the School of Engineering and at AMAP on board we have a ‘best in class’ research team on hand. We’re looking forward to supporting SMEs with overcoming blocks to growth that they are facing, whether that’s in automation, additive or digital manufacturing, Industry 4.0 or joining / assembly processes. My message is simple – get in touch, we have funding and expertise you can access to help you develop your manufacturing business.” 


What is Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing?

Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing is an ERDF project managed by the University of Sunderland. Its aim is to support product, process and technology developments within the SME manufacturing base in the North East LEP area.

What engineering support will it include?

  • Design - product / process design, design for manufacture and CAD
    • Process - quality, supply chain and process improvement
    • Technology – advanced maintenance, robotics, VR, sensors, process simulation and energy monitoring
  • Research
    • Materials, forming / joining technologies, data analytics, big data, sustainable manufacturing
  • Grants
    • Collaborative projects, project call-outs, panel reviews, research commissioning, new product development, capital

When will the project start?

The project will start in May 2018 and end in December 2020.

Where will the project be based?

Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing will be located within The Industry Centre alongside the Institute for Automotive & Manufacturing Advanced Practice (AMAP).

Where will the SMEs be located?

The project will be delivered in the North East LEP area, which includes Sunderland, North and South Tyneside, County Durham. Newcastle, Gateshead and Northumberland.


More comments on the project

Dr Rebecca Chandy, Head of School of Engineering in the Faculty of Technology: “The Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing project will focus on providing research and innovation to support a broad range SMEs through the transition from traditional manufacturing to highly-productive, innovative enterprises fit for the ‘factory of the future’. We will achieve this shift through research and knowledge exchange in response to challenges that the SMEs are seeking solutions to now. We have a team of academics, researchers and technicians at the University and in AMAP who will collaborate with businesses to increase their productivity and sustainability, which in turn will impact on their growth and create jobs.” 

Professor Elaheh Ghassemieh, Research lead on the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing project: “The Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing project is an ambitious and exciting opportunity to deliver cutting-edge research and innovation to regional SMEs. We’re looking forward to engaging with a broad selection of advanced manufacturing companies, including additive manufacturing, novel joining and assembly technologies, automation and robotics and digital manufacturing. The project’s aspirations align with Government’s national Industrial Strategy agenda and place the University of Sunderland at the forefront of manufacturing engineering research. My role, as the principal investigator, is to bring my significant experience in research and knowledge transfer with industrial partners to manage and guide our team of experienced researchers in the successful delivery of the latest solutions to industrial challenges, for the benefit of the region’s manufacturers.”

Manager of AMAP, Roger O’Brien: “There will be over £1m invested into new technology that will support product and process research and development. Members of our AMAP team are highly experienced in design, supply chain, advanced manufacturing processes and maintenance. We’re looking forward to applying our expertise to the challenges facing SMEs to help them develop their businesses. Not only will this benefit them individually, it will also improve the sustainability and productivity of the region’s manufacturing sector and create opportunities for our engineering students and graduates.”


About the European Regional Development Fund

The project is receiving up to £2.6m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.

For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.  

Only ERDF eligible SMEs will be supported by the project. ERDF qualification:

  • SME manufacturer within the North East LEP area
  • Under 250 employees
  • Under £50m annual turnover / balance sheet value
  • Under €200k de minimis (state) aid (previous ERDF funding within a rolling three-year period)

For more information visit.