Aerospace receives £80m boost with new University of Sheffield AMRC innovation facility and Boeing research programme

An £80m boost to composites research and development for aerostructure manufacturing in the UK has been announced, with a new research facility set to be built in South Yorkshire that has aerospace giant Boeing as its first major research partner.

The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) has secured £50m to establish the Compass (Composites at Speed and Scale) facility in Sheffield to enable a groundbreaking research programme with Boeing at the centre. The investment was announced yesterday [July 13, 2023] by UK Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, as part of the South Yorkshire Investment Zone.

AMRC CEO Steve Foxley showcasing the world’s largest robotic machining cell at the Factory 2050 facility.
AMRC CEO Steve Foxley showcasing the world’s largest robotic machining cell at the Factory 2050 facility.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, said: “Our first Investment Zone is a shining example of how we will drive growth across the country.

“It’s already secured more than £80 million of private investment, including backing from Boeing, and will help support more than 8,000 jobs by 2030.”

Compass is a major boost to aerospace research and development for the UK, helping solve composites manufacturing challenges needed to meet future demand for lighter commercial aircraft and help the aviation industry reach net zero.

It will be home to AMRC’s largest ever collaborative research and development programme with founder and long-standing member Boeing, which will be in partnership with Spirit AeroSystems and Loop Technology. It aims to de-risk and develop high-rate sustainable structures, with the potential to reduce large component process times from ~40 hours to ~four hours.

On the back of the research, Boeing has committed to procuring in excess of £2 billion of UK-manufactured goods for export per year to support the production of the company’s next civil passenger aircraft — with the potential to create up to 3,000 high-skilled jobs by the mid-2030s.

Compass builds on the AMRC’s world-class composites and automation capabilities to de-risk the development and manufacture of high-rate, large-scale composite parts, providing the wider UK industry with a unique open-access facility to develop, demonstrate, test and validate new composite manufacturing technologies and capabilities.

Steve Foxley, chief executive officer at the AMRC, said it is a landmark moment for the AMRC and the region, helping unlock economic potential for South Yorkshire through new opportunities in technology and innovation, employment and investment, supply chains, skills development and training.

“Compass will help to establish South Yorkshire as the leading R&D centre of excellence in the manufacture of composites at speed and at scale, enabling future production capabilities that currently don’t exist,” said Steve. “This facility, alongside our existing pedigree and the work on hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuels in the wider University of Sheffield, are cornerstones of a future green aerospace cluster in the region.

“This facility, and the research that will take place there, offers a step-change in UK R&D capability and provides a unique opportunity for the UK. It will support and de-risk new technologies and processes, combining composites and digital technologies to help wider UK industry adopt more efficient, sustainable and cost-effective solutions for the production of future components, including the renewable, transport, defence and urban air mobility sectors.”

The research with Boeing builds on more than 20 years of collaboration and innovation with the AMRC, and the investment it has made into South Yorkshire with Boeing Sheffield, the company’s only European manufacturing facility, and the partnership with the University of Sheffield for its Sustainable Aviation Fuels Innovation Centre…Read more

UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Boeing President Maria Laine at the site of the new Compass building.