The importance of high-value manufacturing to the levelling up of regions like the North East is highlighted in the latest annual review of the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult, featuring projects in Darlington and County Durham as well other parts of the UK.
The HVM Catapult was formed in 2011 and works though seven centres of industrial innovation, including the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) in Tees Valley, to help accelerate new concepts to commercial reality. In 2020-21, it supported 5,897 industrial partners, over half of which were small and medium enterprises (SMEs), according to it annual review.
As an example of its work, the review cites the fact that in April 2020 the CPI joined the UK Government’s Vaccine Taskforce to support the manufacture and formulation of novel mRNA vaccine candidates in the fight against the corona virus. Using its facility in Darlington, CPI played a key role in the development, scale-up, manufacture and supply of the vaccine being developed at Imperial College London.
‘CPI has had a major impact in North East England, advancing the national capability for advanced vaccine development and contributing significantly to healthcare resilience in the UK’, said Dick Elsy, HVM Catapult’s retiring chief executive.
The CPI also partnered Durham University and SMEs across County Durham to accelerate nanomaterial-enhanced products to market. According to the review, more than 60 SMEs were able to speed their ideas – including 11 products or processes which were completely new – to market, helping to cement County Durham as a national centre for nanomaterial manufacturing.
In a third example from the review, ground-breaking manufacturing techniques developed by the HVM Catapult’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) at Sheffield University helped Rolls-Royce halve the production time of its aero-engine discs, a vital component of its Trent engines which are exported globally. As a result Rolls-Royce invested £100m in fan disc production at its plant in North East England, securing 300 high value-added jobs.
Mr Elsy said: ‘These are illustrations of exactly the sort of innovation-driven transformation that the UK needs to level itself up and face the big societal challenges that lie ahead of us. From climate change to global competitiveness, the answers lie in innovation which will drive an unprecedented demand for new technologies, products and services.’
According to the review: ‘The HVM Catapult is attracting investment to the UK from around the world and anchoring it in our regions. We use our national capabilities to deliver regional growth, often helping to bring high-skilled jobs and prosperity back to deprived communities.’