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STRIDING A HEAD; Will 2011 see new life being breathed back into industry in the UK? Business reporter JENNY WADDINGTON looks at how Coventry is leading the way with the city's new Manufacturin Technology Centre: pounds 130m centre will support 625 businesses and it's on target to open later this year.


MANUFACTURING is bouncing back after a crippling recession - but Britain's reputation for its strong industry base has been dwindling for many years.

2011 could see new life being breathed back into manufacturing and Coventry has been given the chance to recapture the sector's fighting spirit and reclaim its standing as a driving force within this reawakened industry.

The city's multi-million pound Manufacturing Technology Centre will open this year af-f ter construction work began nine months ago.

In September, this world-class facility will become the largest of the UK's manufacturing research centres - both in terms of scale as well as having multiple partners.

Representing a pounds 130 million combined investment over ten years - the single largest investment in a manufacturing research facility for many years - the Ansty Park-based MTC will once again place Coventry and the UK on an international stage.

And at the helm is a name synonymous with the automotive and manufacturing sector, Dr Clive Hickman - who is planning to lead the centre through a challenging first year.

The former chief executive of Tata Motor's European Technical Centre, which is based at Warwick University, and head of engineering at Tata Motors in India, has given up his role with the emerging superpower in the automotive industry to take up the 'irresistible challenge' of chief executive of the MTC.

"I took over the role on January 1. It was a case of New Year, new start," said the 55-year-old family man, who lives on the outskirts of Warwickshire.

"I took this job because I have a real passion for manufacturing and feel the need to get manufacturing back to the forefront in the UK.

"Britain needs a strong manufacturing base to remain competitive internationally and that is why this job is simply an irresistible challenge for me."

The MTC is expected to create or safeguard 2,100 jobs, support 625 businesses and generate around pounds 5.5 billion for the UK economy.

Housed in a purpose-built 12,000 square metre facility - eventually employing up to 150 highly skilled people - the MTC plugs an identified gap in global competitiveness and manufacturing capability.

It provides the resources and a high quality environment for the development and demonstration of new technologies on an industrial scale. It will enable companies to share the costs of research and development, access skills and equipment which might not otherwise be within their reach and develop the capabilities of supply chains.

The MTC was developed to address the key challenges associated with the loss of competitiveness in the UK manufacturing sector. Dr Hickman added: "I spent a lot of time in India when I was working for Tata Motors and someone said to me that Britain has a strong manufacturing base, which is what India aspires to.

"But we have lost it to a certain degree and it is incredibly important that we get that back.

The role of the Manufacturing Technology Centre is to take the scientific inventions and convert that into viable manufacturing opportunities.

"We have come up with some great ideas from universities but for many reasons have failed to bring them into production in this country.

"The building itself will be handed over at the end of April. It will then be fitted out with all the equipment and should be operational by August or September.

"We can measure the success of the MTC in its first year through its membership base and by producing some good work with some of these scientific inventions.

"It is difficult to give a real measure, but if we have a broad cross-section of customers, from various industries including aerospace, automotive and energy groups, then it will be a major success for the first year of operation." The MTC is a key regional strategic project for the former Midlands Regional Development Agencies. A combined capital contribution of pounds 40 million from Advantage West Midlands and East Midlands Development Agencies provided a catalyst to drive forward the construction of the centre and the funding to help run it in the medium term.

The facility was also specifically highlighted in the previous government's manufacturing strategy 'Manufacturing: New Challenges, New Opportunities', published in September 2008.

Following the October 2010 spending review, the government anno that over pounds 200 million be invested in a netw elite UK Technology an novation Centres to be e lished and overseen b Technology Strategy B key technology secto hoped that the MTC w national TIC for Advan ufacturing - a decisio made in April. The MT ral industrial members leading UK manufactu such as Rolls Royce, A bus UK and Aero Engin Controls.

To date, more than 80 UK manufacturing companies have expressed an interest in working with the MTC.

It comprises of a unique collaboration of research partners including the Univerity of Nottingham, nd TWI Limited.

lready commenced already lined up to y ahead of its opend pounds 45 return for the pounds 25 return for the n, pounds 15 for the East d on independent ment.

dded: "The Manuhnology Centre is e we really do need ck to being a strong acturing base and idlands has always n the driving force d heart of the manacturing environent in the UK. We now have the opportunity to rediscover this and that is an opportunity which cannot be missed."


GETTING CLOSE: The MTC takes shape at Ansty Park and should be fully functioning in September
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jan 20, 2011
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