Monday, December 3, 2018

News: McLaren's £50m facility signals green light for "weight race"

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McLaren's new £50m facility in Rotherham highlights perfectly the five foundations of the UK's Industrial Strategy and its opening "effectively fires the stating gun" for the automotive industry's race towards utilising lighter and lighter materials.

Published this time last year, the Industrial Strategy lays out how the UK should tackle its productivity challenge. It focuses on ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment and places.

In the strategy, advanced manufacturing in the Sheffield city region is used as a cases study on regional approaches to economic development. It highlights the success of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing and the emerging Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMID), and the high-profile investments on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP), such as the McLaren Composites Technology Centre (MCTC) and the £110m Rolls-Royce Advanced Blade Casting Facility. The Sheffield-Rotherham AMID aims to develop Europe's largest research-led advanced manufacturing cluster.

A royal opening was held last month for McLaren's new facility on the AMP which is the supercar manufacturer's second only production facility and the first outside its native Woking.

50 employees are already employed at the 75,000 sq ft facility which, once fully operational in 2020, will create over 200 direct jobs and produce carbon fibre tubs as part of McLaren's constant efforts to save weight and produce greater energy efficiencies.

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Mike Flewitt, chief executive officer of McLaren Automotive (pictured, far right), said in a guest blog for the Government: "The MCTC is first and foremost an innovation centre, turning ideas into strong commercial products, in close collaboration with academia.

"It is no coincidence that the lamp posts our Royal guests drove along on their way to open our second-ever facility were adorned with "Innovation is GREAT" branding.

"We are clear; we want the MCTC to be a world-leader in what it does."

Working with the AMRC and other research centres, £2.4m of Government funding via Innovate UK enabled McLaren to develop technologies to significantly reduce the cost of utilising advanced carbon fibre composite materials in vehicle structures, a traditional barrier to date. The centre has also been backed a grant of up to £12m via the Sheffield city region (SCR).

McLaren's ability to tap into the SCR's extensive materials expertise, skills, university resources, and dynamism will help it to continue to innovate quickly and launch 18 new models or derivatives under its ambitious Track25 business plan that are lightest in class.

The aim is for 100% of McLaren sportscars and hypercars to be hybrid and Flewitt believes that "the innovation that goes on at the MCTC will be vital in our ability to deliver on those ambitions."

Flewitt added: "The opening of the MCTC effectively fires the starting gun on the "weight race". The old "power race" with ever bigger, thirstier and heavier petrol engines is well and truly over.

"It's my belief that, through facilities like the MCTC, with a joined-up policy landscape that makes the natural link between lightweight and future powertrain as almost two halves of the same whole, Britain can become a world leader in lightweight materials technology that will help create more efficient future vehicles for use the world over."

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The in-sourcing of the manufacture of the carbon fibre chassis also increases the average percentage (by value) of a McLaren car sourced in the UK by around 8% from its current average of around 50% depending on model.

On selecting the AMP for the facility, Flewitt added: "Places such as the Sheffield region's Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District is an ideal place for McLaren to invest.

"It allows us to leverage existing strengths to also stimulate infrastructure investments that actively support long-term productivity.

"We are proud to be bringing over 200 new jobs to the Sheffield region which has a long association with advanced materials; first with steel and now a future to look forward to with carbon fibre."

McLaren Automotive website

Images: McLaren

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