£1m support scheme for aerospace and advanced engineering industry

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A new £1m scheme has been launched to protect Lancashire firms in the civil aerospace sector and its supply chain.

Set up by Lancashire County Council, the initiative is in response to the impact caused by the coronavirus.

The Lancashire Advanced Engineering and Manufacturing (AEM) Watchtower project will use local industry knowledge to develop a dashboard of the health of strategically important aerospace suppliers as they stabilise, recover and grow during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It will identify organisations that need, and will most benefit from, tailored coordinated business support and will help engage them with the right support at the right phase of the crisis.

The funding is part of the county council’s new £12.8m Lancashire Economic Recovery and Growth Fund, which is targeted at tackling some of the economic impacts of Covid-19 and stimulating growth.

The two year programme will include five elements:

  • An intelligence function to identify and protect Lancashire’s key aerospace assets and businesses
  • A talent retention service to help people who have lost skilled jobs in aerospace to find new work
  • Support for businesses to find new contracts which fit their manufacturing capabilities nationally and internationally
  • Support for businesses to innovate, for example, developing new products or new ways of working, and
  • A campaign to reinforce that Lancashire remains a perfect location for aerospace and advanced manufacturing businesses seeking somewhere to grow

County Councillor Michael Green, cabinet member for economic development, environment and planning, said: “We are pleased to support this vital industry in our county which employs around 13,000 people and has been hard hit by the economic impact of COVID-19.

Cllr Michael Green

“There has been a temporary collapse in demand for AEM products as a result of lockdowns, which has impacted on the aerospace, automotive and power markets and supply chains.

“In turn, significant numbers of high value jobs have been furloughed and potentially lost, impacting on our skills base and wealth generating capacity.”

He added: “The Lancashire AEM Watchtower project is amongst the first to be approved for funding from the Lancashire Economic Recovery and Growth Fund, which we have launched to take urgent action to help the sectors and occupations in our county most affected by the pandemic.”

The county council’s financial contribution of £1m will support 40 aerospace supply chain small to medium-sized businesses, help safeguard, and create 200 jobs, and bring in £30m-worth of revenue into the county, he said.

Claire Whelan, board director at Lancashire Enterprise Partnership and a member of the LEP’s Aerospace Task Force, said: “This package, which represents a serious commitment of funding by County Hall, delivers one of the key recommendations made in the Lancashire Aerospace Task Force’s Recovery Plan published last autumn.

“The impact of COVID-19 has diminished decades of sustainable growth in the sector, creating supply chain vulnerability and the loss of good jobs, built from a rich heritage of over 100 years in aircraft production in Lancashire.

“This is why it is important that any interventions for the sector have been articulated and developed by the industry themselves to ensure we retain these capabilities and skills in the county, and continue to lead the way in innovative civil and defence aircraft manufacturing.”

The project will start in Spring 2021 and run for two years.