Belfast Telegraph

New technology grants to boost manufacturing

A £150m package of support to help manufacturers take advantage of new technologies will create or safeguard thousands of jobs and lead to the opening of factories in the coming years, the Government has announced.

The biggest slice of the investment will go to engineering giant Rolls-Royce.

The company will receive £45m in Government assistance towards a £300m programme to build four new manufacturing sites — including an additional facility at its plant in Barnoldswick, Lancashire — for the production of wide-chord fan blades for the Joint Strike Aircraft.

The Printable Electronics Centre, in Sedgefield, will create up to 1,500 jobs by 2014 under a £12m expansion, while a £500,000 scheme to support the development of a centre of excellence for silicon design in the South West will lead to 100 new posts, the Business Department said.

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said the “significant” package of measures would help equip British manufacturers to take advantage of advanced technologies and new market opportunities shaping the UK's low-carbon industrial future.

Sir John Rose, chief executive of Rolls-Royce, said the new factories will be built over the next four to five years, in areas of assisted status, and will support the company's growing order book, which currently stands at more than £55bn.

Sir John added that he hoped the announcement would begin to reverse “several decades of aversion” to industrial policy by governments.

Rolls-Royce did not disclose the locations for the new sites, but the firm said it planned a new casting facility for turbine blades, a plant for the production of discs used in fans, compressors and turbines and a new factory to manufacture, assemble and test parts for new nuclear power stations.

Lord Mandelson said the aim was to “multiply” the impact of the investment, with jobs being created in the supply chain, adding: “It is a complete myth that we do not make things in Britain any more.

“We are the sixth biggest manufacturing economy in the world. Manufacturing is one of our biggest exports and it is growing, but it will only grow if we keep ahead, using our science-based research.

“We are not going to find our future manufacturing success from the old style of factories and smoke stacked industries that generated our wealth in the past. It is going to come from small groups of people with brilliant ideas, who commercialise those ideas, applying new technologies.”

Business groups and unions welcomed the announcement, although the Engineering Employers Federation (EEF) complained that it lacked the long-term strategic direction it believed was vital for the future competitiveness of manufacturing.

Belfast Telegraph