First Minister Nicola Sturgeon emphasised the importance of research and innovation as she opened a major new manufacturing facility in Prestwick, South West Scotland.
The Spirit AeroSystems site will produce spoiler wing components for Airbus’ A320 aircraft using leading edge automation technology, creating more than 100 jobs and helping secure the long-term future of aerospace production in the area.
Significantly, the project involves the first commercial use in the UK aerospace sector of a new, lightweight composite material technology which will reduce emissions and lower costs, key priorities for the aviation industry.
The technology has been taken into full production by Spirit AeroSystems, backed by funding from Scottish Enterprise.
The First Minister said:
“Spirit AeroSystems exemplifies how investment in research and development drives innovation and creates high quality jobs.
“Today’s opening provides Prestwick with a world class composite manufacturing facility and increases Spirit’s ability to secure additional work on the next generation of greener aircraft. It is a tribute to the vision, expertise and hard work of everyone working at Spirit and a significant day for Ayrshire and Scottish manufacturing.
“Our vision is for a Scotland where innovation is an intrinsic part of the economy and culture. The Scottish Government has set ambitious targets for growing business expenditure on research and development to ensure we are ready to meet the global challenges ahead.”
Scott McLarty, Spirit’s senior vice president of Airbus programs, said: “This is the result of a three-year journey to secure production of the spoiler in the UK.
“We appreciate the investment support provided by the Scottish Government, allowing us to better meet the needs of our customers with our technology, design, engineering and manufacturing expertise.”
David Leven, Head of High Value Manufacturing at Scottish Enterprise, said:
“A healthy and innovative manufacturing sector is critical for the success of Scotland’s economy and we welcome this news from Spirit AeroSystems. We know investment in R&D can unlock new products and markets for manufacturers, which leads to the creation of quality jobs in communities like Ayrshire and further across Scotland.
“This new facility opened by the First Minister is evidence of why Scotland holds an enviable position as a global centre of advanced manufacturing excellence.”
The £22 million spoiler manufacturing project includes £2.1 million funding from Scottish Enterprise.
A further grant of £4.8 million has been awarded for Spirit AeroSystems’ new £28 million Aerospace Innovation Centre, which is due to open at the Prestwick site later this year. This will focus on the technology and expertise required by Spirit and its suppliers to contribute to the Airbus Wing of Tomorrow programme. It will also be open to companies in other sectors undertaking research into composite solutions.
Spirit AeroSytems currently employs 1,055 full time equivalent workers at Prestwick.
The aerospace sector in Scotland had a turnover of £2.3 billion in 2017 and 5,250 employees. Prestwick and the surrounding area is home to 50 per cent of the country’s aerospace industry.
The Scottish Government has set a target of growing business research and development expenditure to £1.75 billion by 2025 and has committed an additional £45 million from 2018/19 to 2020/21 for business R&D grants.