Initial construction has completed on a new industrial research facility to help manufacturers across the Midlands win work in growing low-carbon markets and develop new sustainable technologies.

Senior figures from the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC) and partners visited the site at Infinity Park Derby on Wednesday 9 November to mark the topping out of the £20 million building.

The new Nuclear AMRC Midlands facility will provide a permanent base in Derby for the University of Sheffield’s Nuclear AMRC, part of the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and a new home for the University of Derby’s Institute for Innovation in Sustainable Engineering (IISE).

Andrew Storer, CEO of the Nuclear AMRC, said:

“It’s fantastic to see the progress that’s been made on our new facility, especially when the UN climate change conference in Egypt is again highlighting the urgency of reducing emissions from all parts of the global economy. As a nation, we need to build a new generation of low-carbon power plant, and we need to move industry to more sustainable manufacturing and engineering practices.

“The research that will be carried out in this facility will help tackle both of those challenges, and support manufacturers in Derby and beyond to seize the opportunities of the energy transition. I look forward to working with local industry, academic and government partners to deliver sustainable growth in the Midlands for generations to come.”

The pilot Nuclear AMRC Midlands opened in 2019 in the iHub on Infinity Park (now the home of the Nuclear Skills Academy led by Rolls-Royce and the University of Derby).

“Our pilot centre at iHub was a great success, and has helped start the snowball effect of creating a real community for industry and innovation at Infinity Park,” Storer added. “Along with our role in securing the Nuclear Skills Academy on the park, I am really proud of the role the Nuclear AMRC is playing to develop long-lasting support for the supply chain in the Midlands.”

The new 4,300m2 facility will build on its work by expanding the centre’s capabilities in technology areas to help UK manufacturers win work in the nuclear supply chain.

While the Nuclear AMRC’s original facility in South Yorkshire focuses on mechanical manufacturing processes for power plant components, Nuclear AMRC Midlands specialises in emerging technology areas including digital engineering, control and instrumentation systems, and additive manufacturing.

The new building, designed by Stephen George + Partners and built by Stepnell, is based around a large open-plan workshop which will host a flexible range of state-of-the-art manufacturing and research equipment, with ten metre ceilings and 50 tonne cranes to allow work on large fabrications and assemblies.

Nuclear AMRC laboratory facilities will include dedicated space for 3D printing and rapid prototyping, virtual reality and visualisation, and equipment qualification. The building will also include dedicated space for engaging with local schools and colleges, to help encourage young people to consider careers in science and engineering.

The University of Derby’s IISE will occupy around a quarter of the building. IISE specialises in developing sustainable life-cycle design and manufacturing processes for products, serving a range of sectors from transport to healthcare to help reduce their environmental impact. IISE offers collaborative innovation and research using a range of equipment for design, manufacture and testing, supported by specialist expertise to include advanced manufacturing, computational modelling of materials and structures, life cycle management and data science.

Professor Warren Manning, Provost for Innovation and Research at the University of Derby, said:

“The development of the Nuclear AMRC Midlands facility at Infinity Park builds on Derby’s longstanding heritage linked to the nuclear industry and cements further its reputation as a city at the cutting edge of industrial innovation.

“We are delighted that the University’s Institute for Innovation in Sustainable Engineering will be co-located with the Nuclear AMRC, offering huge collaboration potential for organisations to work together to develop the skills and capability required to support government objectives linked to net zero and manufacturing growth, and strengthening the wider D2N2 region’s position as a key advanced manufacturing and innovation hub for the UK and beyond.”

As befits a building dedicated to low-carbon technology development, the Nuclear AMRC Midlands has been designed to high standards of environmental sustainability and is targeting a BREAAM rating of Very Good and EPC B rating.

The facility features 590m² of roof-mounted solar panels, generating around 83MWh of low-carbon energy a year – with estimated emissions savings of more than 19 tons of CO2 compared with the average grid supply. The building includes sustainable materials throughout including cladding, insulation and glazing, with site landscaping to increase biodiversity and green cover.

Tom Sewell, Regional Director at Stepnell, said:

“The Nuclear AMRC facility in Derby is a fantastic project that we are proud to be working on. Stepnell is committed to investing in the local community and is on track to deliver over £3m of social return on investment. Key activities have included employing a local supply chain, working with people facing significant barriers to employment through Derby City Council led initiatives, and collaborating with local education providers including Derby College, University of Derby, City of Derby Academy and Landau Forte College.”

Chris Webster, Studio Director for Stephen George + Partners and lead architect for the project, said: “It was exciting to design a building that had to deliver on both the requirements of Nuclear AMRC and be a statement gateway to the development. We were able to use our extensive experience in the sector to create this quality design, reflecting the high technology aspirations for Infinity Park Derby.”

Infinity Park Derby is a unique collaboration between Derby City Council, The Harpur Crewe Estate, Rolls-Royce, the D2N2 local enterprise partnership, and developers IPD LLP which comprises Wilson Bowden and Peveril Securities.

Nick Richardson, managing director of Wilson Bowden, said:

“The topping out of the Nuclear AMRC facility is another significant milestone in the delivery of this exciting advanced manufacturing and logistics project and further cements Derby’s unrivalled reputation for world-class manufacturing.

“The Park is already benefiting from a superb location with excellent access to the major routes such as the M1 and A38, this will be further improved with the opening of the proposed new junction off the A50 offering even more direct access to the national motorway network, reinforcing Infinity Park’s position as the premier location for logistics and manufacturing businesses in the region.”

Spanning 100 acres, Infinity Park offers design and build opportunities of up to 50,000m2 for logistics and manufacturing facilities. It is located next to Rolls-Royce and within 20 minutes drive of global manufacturers including Toyota, Alstom and JCB.

With an initial cost of around £20 million, the Nuclear AMRC Midlands building is supported by Derby City Council, and part-funded by £9 million from D2N2.

Councillor Steve Hassall, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Decarbonisation, Strategic Planning & Transport at Derby City Council, said: “It’s great that we’ve been able to visit the site of the new Nuclear AMRC to mark this key milestone. This state-of-the-art facility is a great example of partnership working in action and will offer a huge boost to our local economy and reaffirm our place as a national leader for innovation, manufacturing, and world-class research and development.”

Frank Horsley, Head of Business & Innovation at D2N2 said:

“The Nuclear AMRC is a significant opportunity to establish and develop a sustainable net-zero supply chain in our region.”

Nuclear AMRC Midlands will support at least 35 collaborative research and development projects within its first five years, drawing on public and private investment to tackle industry challenges in locally-important sectors such as aerospace, automotive and rail as well as low-carbon energy technologies.

The team will also work with at least 50 smaller companies in the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire area, to help them develop their capabilities for new market opportunities through supplier development programmes such as the flagship Fit For Nuclear service.

Around 30 researchers, engineers and support staff will work at the new facility when it opens in spring 2023, growing to at least 70 within five years.