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News Staffordshire University announces specialist £1.5m manufacturing facility

A centre for advanced materials will be set up following a successful bid for University Enterprise Zone (UEZ) status.

Latest news from Staffordshire University
Image: Latest news from Staffordshire University

Many of Staffordshire’s research community are right on the precipice of turning ground-breaking ideas into real products and services, which could change the lives not just of people in the local community, but people around the world.

Chris Skidmore, UK Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation

Staffordshire University is to set up a specialist centre for advanced materials following a successful bid for University Enterprise Zone (UEZ) status and funding.

The £800,000 Research England grant, announced today, will be match-funded by Staffordshire University, to set up the Staffordshire Advanced Materials Incubation and Accelerator Centre (SAMIAC) – a facility that will offer dedicated innovation support to the ceramics industry and other manufacturing areas, including energy generation, aerospace and automotive sectors.

Commenting on the importance of SAMIAC to researchers and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the region, Chris Skidmore, UK Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, said: “Many of Staffordshire’s research community are right on the precipice of turning ground-breaking ideas into real products and services, which could change the lives not just of people in the local community, but people around the world.

“Today’s funding will not only help local scientists take their ideas from lab to market, but will also support an enterprise hub at Staffordshire University. Providing space for local businesses to forge crucial partnerships, the UEZs will create jobs, drive local growth and provide SMEs with a vital steppingstone to succeed.”

Professor Martin Jones, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Staffordshire University, said: “Twenty per cent of jobs nationally in applied materials are based here in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, and, as such, there’s a need for dedicated space and facilities to work on innovation projects to support development and growth in our region.

“Research and innovation have a crucial role to play in the future of manufacturing, and this will recognise the University as having an advanced material specialism. This will lead to more high-value and graduate jobs, and address some of the challenges experienced in our area, where 10 per cent of our business base is manufacturing.”

The development will consist of dedicated incubation space, as well as research, prototype and innovation lab space. The facility will sit alongside the University’s Smart Zone – a £1.3 million facility that opened to students this week, and which combines state-of-the-art fabrication spaces with new-age augmented and blended reality facilities.

Professor Jones added: “This will be a regional flagship bringing together academics, researchers, companies and facilities under one roof, connecting potential with expertise, problems with solutions, and students with future careers.”

The bid for Research England Development (RED) funding was supported by a range of partners, including Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce; the Applied Material, Research, Innovation and Commercialisation Centre (AMRICC); Stoke-on-Trent City Council; and the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Welcoming news of the funding, Dr Cathryn Hickey, Chief Executive of AMRICC, said: “This incubator and associated business environment will address a critical gap in provision, and will have a positive impact on regional productivity.

“It will also enable better signposting and integration of SMEs and start-up companies into the innovation, proof-of-concept testing and commercialisation capability being developed in AMRICC.”

Councillor Abi Brown, Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, added: “This is recognition of the considerable work and effort that’s gone into promoting economic growth in the city over the last five years. This investment will help much-needed research into advanced materials, specifically as we continue our work on the Local Industrial Strategy with the Local Enterprise Partnership.

“We are passionate about delivering a more prosperous city for our residents and businesses. This announcement is testament to our continued efforts, and demonstrates the plan is working – we are open for business!”

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