Manufacturing Technology Centre in moves to attract SMEs

The pioneering Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry is launching a major campaign to encourage small and medium sized enterprises to take advantage of the Centre’s technology and expertise.

The MTC, which now has 55 members, believes SMEs in the region can accelerate their growth by taking advantage of the capabilities, expertise and technology available in centres like the £40 million centre, as well as the university networks, and the manufacturing associations with which the MTC works. Business secretary Vince Cable praised the work of the MTC during a recent visit.

The MTC launched its campaign to attract more SMEs with a high-powered round table meeting which included representatives from Coventry University, Loughborough University, DBIS, the Engineering Employers Federation, the Motorsport Industry Association as well as Midlands based SMEs Ant Industries, Arrowsmith Engineering and Technoset.

The Manufacturing Technology Centre opened in 2011 following a £40 million publically-funded investment. It is a partnership between some of the UK’s major global manufacturers and three forward-thinking universities: Birmingham, Nottingham and Loughborough as well as TWI Ltd, the operating division of The Welding Institute. The MTC is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult which is supported by the Technology Strategy Board.

MTC chief executive Clive Hickman said there were many opportunities available to businesses in the region. He said, “We can help SMEs test and develop their ideas, so they don’t have to make a capital investment in the early stages of a project and won’t have to buy the equipment to secure potentially lucrative contracts. The opportunities are there we just need to put together a model that meets the needs of SMEs.”

Jason Aldridge, managing director of Coventry-based precision engineers Arrowsmith Engineering, a key supplier in the aerospace sector, said SMEs needed to be kept in the loop so that associations and funding bodies could work together to devise the right strategy:

“SMEs need to be at the centre of the discussion about how we work with MTC and the Catapult centres. We need to lead this to identify the overarching issues. It’s about the associations working together to identify a long term strategy that will make a difference to businesses. There is a very real and important opportunity here. SMEs accessing world class manufacturing facilities like the MTC will be a real game-changer for the supply chain in the region.”

Steve Rothberg, pro vice chancellor of the University of Loughborough said the initial meeting was invaluable and would get the ball rolling to establish a network of support.

“The MTC, together with its university partners, has an enormous amount to offer SMEs. If we can open up the right channels of communication we can see some very special new capability enabled. Getting together to talk about the issues is extremely important and marks the beginning of this strategy.”

The Manufacturing Technology Centre was established to prove innovative manufacturing processes and technologies in an agile environment in partnership with industry, academia and other institutions. The centre recently celebrated its first full year in operation, and its growth has far exceeded early expectations, hitting many of its targets five years early. The Centre already works with a number of SMEs in the Midlands region.
Clive Hickman added, “We now have 55 members – a target that was originally not expected to be achieved until 2020. Our incredible growth from a standing start is based on work generated by our members who have already shown faith in us to deliver new processes for them, as well the support of our research partners and the commitment of MTC employees. It’s time we dedicated our energies into meaningful engagement with SMEs”.

The areas of MTC’s technology focus are appropriate to both large and small companies and are applicable across industry sectors. Founder industrial members of the MTC are Rolls-Royce, Aero Engine Controls and Airbus UK and members now include manufacturing companies from multiple sectors.