AMC welcomes Minister to showcase innovation

West Highland College UHI was delighted to welcome Ivan McKee MSP, Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise to its new Advancing Manufacturing Centre on Friday as part of his visit to Lochaber businesses.

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Ivan McKee MSP, Minister for Business, Trade, Tourism and Enterprise (middle) with David Campbell, STEM Project Director (rear) and Aidan Purcell, owner of Lochaber Stainless (front). Photo credit: Iain Ferguson.

Mr McKee, who was in Fort William to learn about the business community’s post-covid recovery plans, was shown specialist machinery at the AMC which provides small to medium businesses with free access to equipment and software such as 3D printing, scanning and CNC machining.

More than 70 businesses have engaged with the team at AMC since the centre officially opened in November. Experienced engineers and technicians have provided help with research, training and machining to provide business solutions, inspire entrepreneurs, and bring ideas to life thanks to a successful funding bid.

The range of businesses the college engages with in the region is vast and this is evident in the diverse breadth of sectors who have been supported by the team. From candle makers to exhaust manufacturers, the centre’s list of projects to date includes work with seaweed farmers, bike suppliers, vertical planter producers, engineering firms, potters and gin makers.

David Campbell Project Director for STEM at West Highland College UHI, welcomed the opportunity to discuss innovation with Mr McKee, who is himself a graduate in Manufacturing Sciences and Engineering.

Mr Campbell said:

“The Advancing Manufacturing in the West Highlands project allows us to provide practical support to manufacturing businesses. It was rewarding to not only show the Minister our fantastic facility but to introduce him to business owners who are directly benefiting from step changes in their productivity and innovation through our services.

“The AMC forms part of the college’s support for local businesses and communities, making a vital contribution by bringing national and international expertise and specialisms in manufacturing to rural businesses that would previously have not been accessible locally.”

The Centre is being supported through the Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund, which is a partnership between the Scottish Government Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Projects are part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Scottish Government and match-funding from each project, with Scottish Enterprise managing the Fund.

Mr McKee said:

“The Scottish Government is supporting communities and businesses in Fort William and the wider Lochaber area as we rebuild a sustainable and prosperous economy following the pandemic.

“I was pleased to visit West Highland College in Fort William today to see how funding from the Scottish Government’s Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund is supporting this £1.6 million project at the College. This is helping transform production capabilities and create highly skilled jobs at smaller companies across Scotland.”

After touring the centre, Mr McKee visited Highland Cinema and met with Lochaber Chamber of Commerce members and community representatives.

Mark Gibbings, Commercial Manager at Lochaber Chamber of Commerce, commented:

“Lochaber is a thriving hub for business and tourism, hosting and speaking with Mr McKee provided businesses to hold productive conversations and the day was a great opportunity for us all to further put the West Highlands on the map”.

The manufacturing sector in Scotland accounts for almost 170,000 jobs — 6.5 per cent of all jobs in Scotland — and £12.5 billion in gross value added, and it contributes more than half of the nation’s international exports.


  1. The Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund is a partnership between the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. A full list of successful projects is available on the AMCF website. Total investment is £15.8 million, with £8.3 million from the European Regional Development Fund, £590,000 from the Scottish Government, and the remainder in match-funding from the chosen projects.
  2. The Scottish Government is the Managing Authority for the European Structural Funds 2014-20 Programme. For further information visit their webpages or follow @scotgovESIF

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