Major new project announced by Scottish Government for ‘Advancing Manufacturing in the West Highlands’

West Highland College UHI is delighted that a major project to help businesses in the West Highlands and the wider Highland area was announced during the First Minister of Scotland’s briefing by Cabinet Minister Fiona Hyslop on Friday.

As part of the national ‘Advancing Manufacturing Challenge Fund’, the project is a partnership between the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.  It is part funded by the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Fund.  The College will now take forward a £1.6M project designed to provide local businesses with access to advanced manufacturing technology and expertise.

The project will target support for SMEs and micro businesses involved in manufacturing across different industry sectors, including Food and Drink, Construction, Aquaculture, Metals and Timber Products. The multi-sector approach will give local businesses access to new advanced manufacturing equipment and specialist expertise to help inform their adoption of new technology, processes and products leading to improved productivity.

A new specialist advanced manufacturing hub for the West Highlands will be created, giving opportunities for industry-led knowledge exchange and supporting collaboration amongst businesses.  It will also serve as a local point of contact for industry bodies, academic institutions and wider networks, which is not currently available locally to the businesses in the West Highlands.

The ‘Advancing Manufacturing in the West Highlands’ project also forms a core part of the college’s plans to build an innovative new Centre for Science, Technology, Engineering and Health in Fort William.   The project will commence as soon as the current COVID19 pandemic health situation will allow, and further information will be made available in the next few months. The project will run for 2.5 years.

Lydia Rohmer, Principal and Chief Executive of West Highland College UHI said:

“I am delighted that Scottish Government are supporting the college’s plans to create a step change for STEM provision in the West Highlands, as part of the University of the Highlands and Islands regional strategy for STEM technology and innovation. The ‘Advancing Manufacturing in the West Highlands’ project will provide support to businesses involved in manufacturing, particularly small and micro businesses, giving  access to specialist expertise and equipment locally, and connecting rural Highland businesses to the regional, national and international expert networks otherwise not available to them locally. Given the current health situation, this project will provide a major support resource for businesses to develop and innovate, as well as up-skill and re-skill their workforce. I am also delighted that the college has secured the services of David Campbell who is joining the college as Project Director for STEM, to lead this project as part of the college’s wider STEM strategy. David brings over 30 years’ experience working in world-class national manufacturing organisations with him to this new role and will provide leadership to the ‘Advancing Manufacturing in the West Highlands’ project as well as our STEM Centre development.”

Professor Crichton Lang, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Highlands and Islands, said: “We are delighted to be involved with two key projects to support manufacturing businesses in the Highlands and Islands region. Our university partnership has a vital role in supporting the recovery of our region following the COVID-19 pandemic and we are working with employers and communities to respond to their needs. We look forward to collaborating with local businesses to provide the skills and resources they need to drive forward innovation and development as part of our regional strategy for STEM technology and innovation.”

David Campbell, recently appointed Project Director for STEM at West Highland College UHI welcomed the announcement:

“In these challenging times this welcome news further demonstrates the importance of the manufacturing sector to the Scottish economy.  At such a difficult time for all sectors, it is encouraging that we will be able to support businesses of all sizes in the area from single person owner operators, to some of the larger international brands, adding an extra dimension to the economic stimulus required by those affected following lockdown.  Having just joined West Highland College UHI following 33 years in industry, I am looking forward to working with manufacturers in the area to further improve their manufacturing capabilities.”

Further Information/Notes to editors:

  • The college recently issued a newsletter describing its plans for a Centre for Science Technology, Health and Engineering as part of the Fort William 2040 project.
  • The Scottish Government is the Managing Authority for the European Structural Funds 2014-20 Programme. For further information visit our web pages or follow @scotgovESIF
  • 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. 

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