A 2,500 sq ft product manufacturing incubator on the Manufacturing Technology Centre campus at Ansty Park in Coventry has been officially opened by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Philip Hammond as he announced £780 million extra funding for innovation and technology.
The new Sopwith Building is set to provide a ground-breaking facility to help start-ups and entrepreneurs bring innovative products to market.
The Chancellor also toured the facilities at the Manufacturing Technology Centre, learning about technologies such as additive manufacturing, automation and augmented reality and how they can improve the productivity of the UK industrial base. In addition he met with apprentices on thee MTC’s industry-leading manufacturing apprenticeship scheme.
Unveiling a plaque in the new building, the Chancellor said, “This new incubator will help start-ups turn their ideas into reality. By backing this centre with £122 million funding we are supporting Great British innovators to create the technologies of the future and boost productivity.”
The three-storey Sopwith Building will provide incubation cells for start-ups to develop and manufacture prototypes of their innovative products. They will have access to the MTC’s world-class advanced manufacturing and research facilities, as well as the MTC’s team of engineering and manufacturing experts.
The building will be home to the Business Launch Centre Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary and trading arm of the MTC. The purpose-built product manufacturing incubator employs a team of highly-skilled engineers, many of whom a leading experts in their field.
Dean Baker, director of the Business Launch Centre, said the new building is creating a high quality environment for the development of new products.
“The BLC hosts incubation businesses and provides services to design, manufacture and mature prototypes through to full commercial viability. The ground floor of the new building hosts six specialist laboratory units, each one kitted out with the facilities and equipment to meet the exact requirements of each business occupier,” he said.
He added, “The early stages of a new business are typically known as ‘the valley of death’ due to the high failure rate of UK companies as they head towards full scale production. The BLC dramatically transforms the odds of success when combined with the backing of the MTC, acting as a centre for collaboration between industry, finance institutions and universities. This enables companies to get access to a wide range of skills and manufacturing support. The Sopwith Building provides growing businesses with a complete turnkey facility to de-risk business development as they grow products to maturity and achieve commercialisation.
The building is named after Sir Tommy Sopwith who founded the Sopwith Aviation Company at Brooklands in 1912. During the first world war the company built more than 16,000 aircraft including the legendary Sopwith Camel, designed by Sopwith chief designer Herbert Smith and credited with shooting down nearly 1,300 enemy aircraft.
MTC strategic development director Neil Rawlinson welcomed the extra funding announced by the Chancellor and said the custom built facility would be a huge boon for start-up companies needing facilities to develop their products for the marketplace.
“We are able, with this new building, to provide a de-risked environment for start-ups with the support of our product development team from concept to manufacture. Through the MTC’s membership we can give young companies the opportunity to draw on the wider manufacturing community to create a successful and sustainable business. Our knowledgeable team offers an end-to-end service to reduce the stress of bringing a product to market,” he said.
The MTC was founded by the University of Birmingham, Loughborough University, the University of Nottingham and TWI Ltd. The MTC’s industrial members include some of the UK’s major global manufacturers.
The MTC aims to provide a competitive environment to bridge the gap between university-based research and the development of innovative manufacturing solutions, in line with the Government’s manufacturing strategy. The MTC is part the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, supported by Innovate UK.