Welsh digital hub funding aims to supercharge manufacturing

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A tech hub in Neath Port Talbot, Wales, aimed at helping manufacturers boost productivity and sustainability, has been granted £1.5 million of Welsh Government innovation funding.

High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult Baglan is a joint venture by the UK HVM Catapult, a network of research and innovation centers working to transform UK manufacturing, and the Welsh government.

It will include an office space and digital factory hub, and will be managed by HVM Catapult, with the digital factory hub run by AMRC Cymru, part of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, and itself a member of Catapult.

The government funding will be used for technology and equipment to provide support, tools, techniques, and advice to local manufacturing companies to improve their capabilities. It will also fund a space for wider engagement and joint work with stakeholders.

"Investing for growth is a national priority in our economic mission, and this exciting opportunity is a further example of the backing we are providing to Welsh manufacturing businesses in a new economy," said Welsh economy minister Vaughan Gething.

"By helping them to harness the power of research and innovation, we can build on the strengths of the high value manufacturing sector in Wales which supports so many good jobs."

According to the Welsh government, manufacturing accounts for 18.4% of Wales’ economic output - £11.3 billion per year - and supports 147,000 jobs.

"The success of our first site in North Wales, AMRC Cymru, has proven how close collaboration between government, industry and academia can boost productivity and sustainability across Wales’ supply chains," said HVM Catapult CEO Katherine Bennett.

"This additional presence will enable those benefits for many more Welsh manufacturers as they tap into expertise from AMRC Cymru and the HVM Catapult network, in areas such as decarbonization, digitalization and skills development."

The development is just the latest in the Welsh government's efforts to boost innovation in the country. This move marks a significant step towards the creation of its own National Manufacturing Institute Wales (NMIW), which is currently under discussion with Innovate UK.


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"This project directly aligns with the Welsh government’s innovation strategy, Wales Innovates, and will give a welcome boost to the Baglan Bay Technology Centre and the future development of Baglan Bay Development site," said Gething.

The Baglan Bay Technology Centre opened last summer, offering office and laboratory space for start-up companies, local businesses and inward investors working in industry sectors including energy, digital and life sciences.

Meanwhile, AMRC Cymru, funded through £20 million from the Welsh government, works with advanced manufacturing sectors including aerospace, automotive, nuclear, and food, with a focus on the key research areas of future propulsion, sustainability and digital manufacturing.

It's predicted to increase gross value added (GVA) to the Welsh economy by as much as £4 billion over the next 20 years.

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.