Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Queen's Anniversary prize for education
Article Type: University and research news From: Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology: An International Journal, Volume 80, Issue 2.
The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing has recently won national recognition by winning the Queen's Anniversary prize for higher and further education which commends “outstanding achievement at a world- class level”. The award is assessed by a specialist panel over several months, and then put forward by the Prime Minister to the Queen for Royal Assent.
The AMRC has been selected for this prestigious award in recognition of its track record as an outstanding collaborative venture involving world- leading research and over 40 business partners, including the world's largest aerospace company Boeing and leading companies such as Rolls-Royce, Messier-Dowty and GE Aviation.
The Centre embodies a new approach to collaboration which has been enthusiastically embraced by leading businesses. By rapidly embedding the latest research into manufacturing businesses, step changes in productivity are achieved. Boeing and Rolls-Royce have both publicly stated that they plan to use the AMRC as a model for future research centre partnerships with universities.
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, Professor Keith Burnett, welcomed the prize and gives credit to the achievement of the AMRC team and partners. He said: “The University's vision includes our stated aim to develop a critical mass of strategic partnerships and collaborations with world-leading companies in which the process of discovery is accelerated. The AMRC is a wonderful example of exactly this. In the five years since its development, growth at the AMRC has been staggering and tangible benefits have been felt in the regional and national economy, with key orders won for this country and jobs secured on the basis of research-led solutions which make companies more competitive.”
Nick West, Director of Communications at Boeing UK, warmly welcomed the news of the Queen's Prize for the AMRC with Boeing. He added: “Britain has proven itself to be one of the most successful locations for aerospace engineering, design and manufacture in the world. Thanks to Boeing's partnership with the University of Sheffield, new techniques have resulted in more energy efficient aircraft. We are also using composite materials to push the boundaries of new materials vital to the next generation of aerospace. Such cutting edge developments are the result of a collaboration which develops skills and creates wealth and intellectual property for us as a company, for the University and for the benefit of UK industry.”
The AMRC model is being enthusiastically replicated by governments and partner organisations from around the world. Within the University, the original AMRC premises have been outgrown and an environmentally sympathetic, carbon neutral, Rolls-Royce sponsored.
This is the fourth time that the University of Sheffield has won a prestigious Queen's Anniversary Prize. Previous awards were for the Humanities Research Institute (1998), Environmental Outreach to Business and Industry (2000) and research into Ageing (2002).
In 1999, Keith Ridgway, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering with a strong track record in industrial partnership, joined forces with Adrian Allen, a commercial director from a high-tech manufacturer for the aerospace and automotive industries. Their vision was to establish an Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at the hub of a specialist industrial park, to be built on reclaimed land. The vision for the AMRC broke the mould of traditional research centres housed within universities, with the associated cultural barriers perceived by many in industry. Instead, it would be physically located at the heart of the manufacturing sector, clearly positioning the centre as a resource for the region's industry. To attract manufacturers, they believed a leading aerospace company should be encouraged to back the AMRC, drawing with them the complex supply chain which characterises the aerospace industry.
At this time, the Boeing Company the world's largest aerospace and communication company announced a fundamental change in its manufacturing operations. To remain global leader, it intended to move away from a US-centric, internal production model towards a global manufacturing plan. Part of that change was establishing Research Centres of Excellence around the world in various disciplines.
South Yorkshire, as an Objective 1 region, offered the potential of ERDF investment. University Innovation Centres were also being considered and the AMRC became the region's submission.
In January 2002, the Global President of Boeing announced a joint venture with the university, to be known as the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre with Boeing, or the AMRC. This was the first time Boeing had lent its name to an outside organisation in this way.
The model of a leading global company, top University research with an industrial focus at its core, and a supply chain eager to become more closely attuned to the lead purchasing organisation found an instant place in the modern manufacturing chain. The AMRC became one of the DTI's University Innovation Centres, and in October 2002 research staff moved into temporary accommodation on a local airport business park.
Boeing has described the University of Sheffield as “a key partner for us in our ongoing efforts to source the best research expertise around the world. The AMRC provides us with a top quality manufacturing Research and Development Centre in Europe, and we are delighted to be working so closely with such an innovative and dynamic group of engineers.”
The AMRC moved from its temporary accommodation to a purpose built facility on the Advanced Manufacturing Park in April 2004. Situated on a former colliery site on the boundary of Sheffield and Rotherham, the AMRC was the first tenant of an Advanced Manufacturing Park. The first part of the AMRC vision had been achieved the AMRC was at the centre of a 100-acre industrial park, 20 acres of which would be dedicated to research organisations and 80 acres available to high-technology companies. Castings Technology International, The Welding Institute and the recently- opened Innovation and Technology Centre now occupy the first 20 acres.
The AMRC family of companies now total 41, with 20 at tier 1 membership, representing contributions of cash or in-kind of x 4.6m per annum, together with specifically commissioned industrial research expected to reach x 4m (in metals) in 2007. The AMRC has a Board which embodies higher education and private sector partnership, and a supporting technical advisory group of Technical Fellows including scientists and engineers from all the participating organisations.
The growth of the AMRC since 2004 has been dramatic. The new building was filled to capacity within nine months of moving in, and it was clear that an extension was required. Though the first machine tool was purchased, all subsequent machines have been provided free by partner organisations. Some of these are worth in excess of x 1m and include such well-known names as Cincinnati, Mori Seiki, Starrag-Heckert, Mitutoyo and Mitsubishi.
By October 2005, the accommodation situation had become critical. A doubling of building size, initially planned for after the five-year mark, was no longer appropriate; a building four times as large as the current 1,200m2 building was required immediately. This led to the use of a temporary site in addition to the main AMRC building, while the factory of the future is nearing completion and will formally open later in this year.