Nicola Sturgeon has officially opened a new £28 million research and development centre for the manufacture of lighter aircraft components near Prestwick Airport.
US-headquartered firm Spirit AeroSystems’ 90,000sq ft Aerospace Innovation Centre (AIC) will examine new, more efficient approaches to the design and manufacture of aircraft parts such as wings, using lightweight composite material technology to reduce flight emissions and lower costs.
The firm describes itself as one of the world’s largest manufacturers of parts for both commercial airplanes and military, as well as business jets.
The AIC will also be open to companies in other sectors undertaking similar research into composite solutions, such as those in the automotive or renewable energy sectors.
Scottish Enterprise provided a £4.8 million research and development infrastructure grant to the project.
The First Minister said: “This investment from Spirit AeroSystems, at a time of considerable challenge for the aerospace sector globally, is an endorsement of Scotland’s engineering and manufacturing capability and it will complement existing facilities, such as the National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland.
“As well as improving the efficiency of aircraft parts, and the way they are manufactured, this facility has the potential to enable growth for industry-leading aerospace innovations and create more high-value manufacturing jobs over the next decade.
“We are focused on building a stronger, sustainable and inclusive economy, with new, high quality, green jobs, and Scotland’s aerospace sector with the highly-skilled workforce it employs is an integral part of that.”
She added: “A company like this in the heart of Aryshire is providing really high-quality, high-paid job opportunities for young people, for graduates here locally, and contributing so much to our economy, so it’s a really good news story.
“This is a tough time for everybody, a tough time for aviation, but this is a development and an innovation to be very positive about.”
Ms Sturgeon was given a tour of the facility and spoke to staff before unveiling a plaque to mark the opening.
She opened a new £22 million Spirit AeroSystems factory at the airport last year.
Expected to create more than 100 jobs, it makes components for spoilers on the wings of the Airbus A320 aircraft using a new, lightweight composite material technology on a commercial aircraft for the first time in the UK.
Scott McLarty, senior vice-president and general manager – Airbus at Spirit AeroSystems, said: “We are delighted to celebrate the official opening of our Aerospace Innovation Centre in Prestwick, Scotland.
“In addition to advancing local skills and rapid knowledge transfer between academia and industry, it will facilitate the development of world-class technology solutions for diverse design and manufacturing applications.
“Our latest investment in collaborative innovation, supported by Scottish Enterprise, reinforces our commitment to strengthen aerospace in Scotland, enabling us to compete more competitively and sustainably on national and global scales.”
The centre is focusing purely on commercial aircraft at the moment.
Spirit AeroSystems also has factories elsewhere in the UK, including in Belfast where it took over from Bombardier last year.
In January this factory won a £30 million contract for the UK’s first uncrewed fighter aircraft.