The well-established aerospace cluster at Prestwick in Ayrshire is set to dramatically expand thanks to the Ayrshire Growth Deal, a multi-million funding package backed by the UK Government, the Scottish Government and local authorities.
A total of £80 million of the investment will go directly towards establishing Ayrshire as one of the UK’s leading aerospace centres.
Courtesy Prestwick Aerospace
Ayrshire is one of the UK’s leading aerospace hubs, hosting lobal companies such as BAE Systems, GE Aviation, Spirit AeroSystems, Woodward and Collins Aerospace, that employ thousands of people in the area, accounting for more than half of the aerospace industry’s workforce in Scotland.
The £250 million package will spur the development of high-value sites and innovative, sustainable industries in Ayrshire. A total of £80 million of this investment will go directly towards establishing Ayrshire as one of the UK’s leading aerospace centres, adding a range of space supply chain capability, positioning it as a centre of technical, economical and innovation excellence. The deal offers a host of opportunities beyond launch, both for the aerospace sector and the people of Ayrshire.
If you were to conjure up an image of Prestwick’s aerospace sector, you might picture an Antonov – the world’s largest aircraft – touching down, or the manufacturing facilities for many of the leading blue-chip aerospace firms. Such impressive activities and capabilities are only possible thanks to a highly skilled workforce, coupled with evolving industrial facilities, laboratories, workshops, testing centres and Prestwick’s transport links across rail, air, sea and road.
The Ayrshire Growth Deal funding will further support technical infrastructure and skills development around Prestwick, equipping the local aerospace sector to develop, build, and test innovative technologies, using advanced state of the art manufacturing and Maintenance Repair and Operations facilities.
A key demonstration of Prestwick’s capabilities beyond launch will be the provision of commercial spaces that provide high-quality industrial and commercial opportunities to house future growth in the aerospace sector. In particular, the needs of the emerging NewSpace market will be catered for in a number of ways, bolstering the ‘space’ aspect of ‘aerospace’ through rocket manufacturing and satellite manufacturing, with a number of partners in this area already in talks with South Ayrshire Council.
Such inward investment from the fast-growing commercial space sector will be supported by facilities to assemble, integrate and test space hardware. Prestwick also has its sights set on future advanced technical facilities, such as positioning the area as a UK centre of excellence for microgravity, allowing access to scientific research and testing components prior to their use in space. Prestwick is also exploring the possibility of human spaceflight with a US based organisation, this remains a long way off however, it’s important to ‘dare to dream’.
An example of the technical infrastructure currently being planned is the brand-new Aerospace and Space Innovation Centre, which will include a visitor centre focused on STEM and provide a central hub to drive the development of new technologies and new skills in the aerospace sector. As well as providing facilities for new business incubation, development and training, the Centre will accelerate existing research into advanced manufacturing techniques, helping to support businesses in the aerospace sector.
The research and business incubation capability will also connect the Ayrshire aerospace cluster to the wider research sector through partnerships with local and closely connected national education institutes, including the University of Edinburgh, the University of Strathclyde, the University of the West of Scotland and Ayrshire College.
Other facilities will contribute to the aerospace sector outwith the plans of the Ayrshire Growth Deal. Two advancing manufacturing aerospace projects have obtained investment from the Scottish Government’s Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund (AMCF) to support small-to-medium enterprises in the west of Scotland. These two projects —the Aerospace Digital Visualisation Suite and Supply Chain AeroSpace— were established following a successful collective bid by South Ayrshire Council, Ayrshire College, the University of Strathclyde and the Ayrshire Engineering Alliance, which secured £2 million in investment.
The Aerospace Digital Visualisation Suite provides aerospace companies with expertise in cutting-edge virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and data visualisation. The Supply Chain AeroSpace project, meanwhile, helps small companies get a head start in providing products to the aerospace supply chain. Both initiatives provide their services free-of-charge to eligible companies, supporting small innovation driven aerospace companies around Prestwick and the west of Scotland as they develop products and foster high-level skills in the local economy, helping to make the area globally competitive.
Training and skills development is just one of the ways in which the Ayrshire Growth Deal will benefit not only the aerospace sector, but also the wider community in Ayrshire. As well as developing skills in the local workforce, the boost to the aerospace cluster around Prestwick is expected to add 4,000 jobs to the area. The plans for commercial development also include improvements to the region’s transport infrastructure - improving quality of life for local residents.
Additionally, a major goal of this investment is to inspire people to explore careers in STEM and the aerospace sector. The development of the aerospace centre will create a wide variety of possibilities for outreach and mentorship of learners from primary to higher education.
One example will be the visitor centre and STEM hub at the Aerospace and Space Innovation Centre, which will provide opportunities for school and college students to understand career options in the aerospace and space sectors, as well as offering a dynamic innovation and training facility for educators and the local workforce. The visitor centre will also provide a unique tourist attraction for Ayrshire, drawing on the widespread fascination with flight, space exploration and technology.
Overall, the Ayrshire Growth Deal shall help secure Prestwick’s reputation, not just as a centre for aerospace excellence but bolster its ability to support the space sector, as part of the region’s overall proposition. Through the support of new and established businesses, the creation of highly skilled jobs, educational outreach programmes and influx of supply chain opportunities to the growing hub, Ayrshire is helping to bolster the UK’s aerospace and space activity, beyond launch.