The manufacturing and engineering sector is suffering from a severe skills shortage, with a large number of major employers attempting to recruit from a limited pool. Young people often graduate without being ready to have an immediate impact on industry.
In order to start addressing these issues, Coventry University and Unipart Manufacturing came up with the Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (AME), which focuses on creating an environment where learning can be carried out on live manufacturing projects and world class research and development (R&D) can be matured into new commercially viable solutions.
The partnership involved considerable investment from both sides. Unipart contributed £17.9m and a further £5.6m towards student scholarships and product R&D. This was further supported by £7.9m from HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund.
AME has come a long way in the 20 months since the vision became a reality. The 1700 sq m manufacturing hub is now full of £3m of robotics, automation, tube bending and metrology equipment and is home to more than 60 students working towards their BEng, MEng (Hons) and MSc degrees.
The UK’s first ‘Faculty on the Factory Floor’ is already winning praise for its innovative activity-led modules that ensure engineering and manufacturing theory is immediately applied on Unipart business operations. To date new TPM systems have been introduced and an improvement to the fuel filler manufacturing process was implemented as a direct result of student and engineer interaction.
Outside their courses, undergraduates and postgraduates can access additional career development opportunities including summer placements, international internships and, in time, fully funded PhD scholarships. Future-proofing graduates is key to ensuring the competitiveness of the UK supply chain.
The Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering has also made significant progress in becoming a world class R&D centre.
Multi-million projects are currently being delivered on behalf of Innovate UK, Cenex and EPSRC, with some of the best professors, researchers and supply chain companies pooling their knowledge together to offer lightweight, design and process innovations.
After just 12 months, the unique R&D environment that is AME has already delivered a new fuel rail for the Ford Fox Engine and an exhaust system for Aston Martin that is nearly 50% lighter than its predecessor.
Both of these breakthroughs will be going into volume production, creating new jobs and delivering new UK-inspired technologies to the world.