MAS urges South West manufacturers to get ‘Fit For Nuclear’

The Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) has announced that it has joined forces with the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC) to help SME manufacturers in the South West access the UK’s rapidly developing £60bn civil nuclear new build programme.

In total, more than 300 small manufacturers across the country are set to benefit from specialist support as MAS and the Nuclear AMRC roll out the Fit For Nuclear (F4N) programme, which lets companies measure their capabilities against industry standards and helps them bridge gaps to meet requirements.

The announcement comes off the back of the European Commission’s decision to give final approval for the construction of the new £24.5bn nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset. Set to be built by EDF Energy, which along with Areva is giving its backing to the F4N initiative, the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power station will produce 3.3 GW of electricity.

The F4N programme offers a business improvement journey that will identify strategy, implement new processes, secure necessary accreditations and provide supplier matching opportunities. It also offers participating SMEs the chance to apply for match funding for business improvement or R&D projects.

John Ruddleston, MAS Nuclear Advisor in the South West, explained: “There is great potential for advanced manufacturing SMEs in the region to build business in the civil nuclear sector. Following approval for Hinkley Point, we can expect these opportunities to increase in new build, as well as in decommissioning and existing station maintenance.”

He continued: “We recognise that manufacturers need help to understand the nature of the opportunities that are opening and to prepare them. Working side-by side with the Nuclear AMRC and the Hinkley Supply Chain Team (managed by the Somerset Chamber of Commerce), we are widening access to F4N and ensuring more SME manufacturers receive expert on-the-ground support and funding to take advantage of this multi-billion pound market.”

To date, around 150 companies have completed the online F4N assessment, with the majority receiving ongoing support and development from the Nuclear AMRC team.

Funding from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund Sharing in Growth programme and bringing in MAS has opened the initiative to another 300 SMEs, with the focus on engaging the wider manufacturing supply chain including control and instrumentation, electrical and other sub-contractors.

F4N participants can also take advantage of the Nuclear AMRC’s Nuclear Connections initiative, which helps link manufacturers to specific supply opportunities from the industry’s top tiers. This is based on a detailed understanding of the production capabilities of individual companies and matching these to current and upcoming tenders, including the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s estate.

“At little or no cost to the participating company, F4N can deliver real business value regardless of your current nuclear sector knowledge or experience,” said Martin Ride, Supply Chain Consultant at the Nuclear AMRC. “This is one of the easiest and most straightforward sector-based programmes to access, participate in, and get incredible value from, and which can lead to increased opportunities,” he added.

Fit For Nuclear starts with a capability questionnaire and online assessment, which will then be followed by a site visit from a dedicated F4N Advisor. They will start developing an action plan that will be verified by industry experts before a nuclear specialist is appointed to deliver the objectives and ensure you’re in the best position to win work. Any English SME can apply for match funding, subject to reaching the required stage in the Fit For Nuclear journey, with the average grant expected to be around £10,000.

John Ruddleston concluded: “The first new nuclear plant is likely to come online in the 2020s, but orders for the bulk of plant and services are expected to start developing from next year. Now is the time for manufacturers to act.”