Salford robotics to power manufacturing growth following £22m award

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The University of Salford has been selected as a recipient of investment from the Government’s Strength in Places Fund (SiPF) with access to a £22.6m funding package.

The recently announced £127m research and development plan will fund just five major projects, all selected on the basis of the high likelihood of societal benefit and accelerating regional economic growth.

Within this funding portfolio, the university is a key strategic consortium partner in the cutting-edge Advanced Machinery and Productivity Initiative (AMPI), a collaboration that will stimulate and support growth in the UK’s vital machinery manufacturing sector in the North of England.

The consortium has been awarded £22.6m for the AMPI project, located in West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.

AMPI brings together a diverse range of partners from industry, local government, higher education institutions and the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL). The funding comes from SiPF, supported by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

AMPI will use Salford’s renowned research in autonomous and advanced robotics systems, bringing more than 20 years of experience to provide practical and innovative solutions to key societal challenges.

For more than a decade, the University of Salford has been a National Advanced Robotics research centre and is home to Autonomous Systems and Advanced Robotics (ASAR), an internationally-renowned research centre with excellence in a vast portfolio including soft/hard robotics, AI and autonomous systems.

Prof Joe Sweeney, Dean of the School of Science, Engineering and Environment, said: “We are delighted but not surprised to have been one of the few HEIs to be selected to receive this prestigious funding – our leading role as a partner in AMPI is based on an unrivalled track record of excellence in fundamental and applied AI and robotics research.

“We are excited to the prospect of working in close collaboration with our industry, local government, and university partners to deliver the goal to make the North West a world leading manufacturing hub.”

He added: “Our long history of research achievements in autonomous technology and robotics has led us to be a leading partner in this high profile research initiative. Our research is already providing innovation in several vital industry sectors, including automotive, aerospace, and food production industries, as well as providing real-world support for health and social care.

“This is testament to our high standing in the area, and is great news for the university, giving us a unique opportunity to help modernise the manufacturing sector to meet the challenges facing business in the 21st century, by introducing innovative and sophisticated automated and autonomous robotic systems to provide the manufacturing platforms of the future.”

He said the AMPI project will provide a tangible positive impact to UK GDP as we recover from the economic fallout created by the pandemic. In addition to helping to create the high skilled jobs vital to the national and regional economy, AMPI will also stimulate export revenues by improving the UK’s competitiveness in the international marketplace.

Prof Samia Nefti-Meziani, founder and director of the ASAR centre and the principal investigator for the AMPI at The University of Salford, said: “This is great news for our ASAR centre.

“AMPI goal is to establish and develop economic growth in the design, development and manufacture of advanced machinery and robotic systems. Therefore, partnering with AMPI will boost ASAR’s research, which has already received over £16m of funding from ERDF and Research England, to accelerate the centre’s ambition to become world leading in smart machines.”

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