Luxury sports car producer McLaren Automotive is to open a new purpose-built facility at the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in a move expected to create more than 200 jobs.
The high-performance supercar manufacturer will open a Composites Technology Centre at the North of England’s Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District within the Sheffield City Region.
Developed with the support of Sheffield City Council, the Composites Technology Centre will be responsible for the development and manufacturing of advanced carbon fibre chassis for McLaren Automotive’s supercars.
The partnership will create more than 200 jobs through a combined investment of nearly £50m.
Professor Keith Ridgway, executive dean at the University of Sheffield’s AMRC, said: “This is a tremendous piece of news for the Sheffield City Region and a boost for its future as the UK’s centre for advanced manufacturing.
“In many respects it represents a new model that repositions manufacturing in Sheffield, taking it on from coal and steel to high performance components for the automotive, as well as the aerospace, sector.
“We will be working with McLaren Automotive on the construction of the carbon fibre chassis and further research, and we are talking with the supply chain. It is our ambition that supply chain companies will start to build factories here to supply the chassis plant.”
The Composites Technology Centre represents a reshoring of the manufacturing of car chassis to the North of England – a key objective of Northern Powerhouse and Industrial Strategy policies.
McLaren Automotive and the University of Sheffield will deliver a two-year research and development programme, which will lead to the development of a production facility to build its lightweight carbon fibre chassis for its new models from 2020.
The University of Sheffield’s AMRC Training Centre will also immediately start training McLaren apprentices who will work in the new facility.
Professor Ridgway praised the University of Sheffield; Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership; Sheffield City Council and its inward investment arm, Creative Sheffield; for their part in helping to clinch the deal.
The university’s ongoing investment in facilities and developing capabilities was said to have been a catalyst to attract McLaren.
Professor Sir Keith Burnett, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, added: “This investment – and the innovation, jobs, training and opportunities it offers – is hugely significant for our region, the North of England and the UK’s global, industrial ambitions.”
The new McLaren Automotive facility is due to start construction early this year with the first pre-production carbon fibre chassis, built using trial manufacturing processes in the AMRC, expected to be delivered to the McLaren Technology Centre in the second half of 2017. Full production at the facility will begin by 2020.
Sir Nigel Knowles, chairman of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “This is fantastic news for the Sheffield City Region, and proof that our research and manufacturing capabilities are up there with the best in the world.
“As McLaren themselves have made clear, the chance to be part of the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMID) was compelling, not least because of the opportunity to access some of the world’s finest composites and materials research capabilities.
“The announcement is the culmination of a tremendous amount of partnership working across the public and private sectors and shows that our super-connected city region is a place that lives up to its enviable reputation as straightforward, practical and business focused. The LEP and Combined Authority have provided, and will continue to provide, considerable support to ensure this investment will flourish. McLaren will be in good company on the AMID, alongside Rolls Royce, Boeing and others. I expect this to be just the start of the good news for the city region.”
Councillor Sir Steve Houghton, chairman of the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, said: “This latest investment has been the result of months of hard work and a really strong public-private partnership approach to working together for the good of the region. I am confident that we’ll be able to continue to attract more firms to locate here in the Sheffield City Region.
“Companies like McLaren don’t want to be anywhere else at the moment, and it is great to see.”
McLaren chief executive Mike Flewitt said: “In 1981, McLaren was the first company to recognise the exceptional properties of carbon fibre, and we have designed the highly-technical material to be at the heart of every McLaren road and racing car ever since.
“The now-iconic McLaren F1 was the world’s first road car to be built with a carbon fibre chassis and every car built more recently by McLaren Automotive has the same. Creating a facility where we can manufacture our own carbon fibre chassis structures is therefore a logical next step.”
The new centre hopes to generate cost savings of around £10m and £100m of gross value added benefit to the local economy by 2028. Opportunities for expansion thereafter could create an ambition of doubling that to £200m.