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Council secures funding to bring ‘Fab Lab’ to the town
4 May 2012
Cheshire West and Chester Council and the Ellesmere Port Development Board have successfully secured funding to create a Fab Lab in the town – giving its communities access to cutting-edge technology.
The brainchild of renowned international scientist and inventor Professor Neil Gershenfeld, Fab Labs are fully-kitted-out workshops with digital fabrication technology which offers everyone in the community – from small children and community groups through to entrepreneurs and businesses – the capability to turn their ideas into reality.
Using state-of-the-art digital manufacturing technology including design software, a 3D printer, a 3D router and laser cutter, the Ellesmere Port Fab Lab will be capable of supporting production ideas from inception through to prototype.
The lab will have the capabilities to assist in the production of a range of areas from 3D designs, drawings and functional pre-production prototypes, electronics, games, 3D scale models and signage using various materials to exhibition materials, models, stands, production moulds, bespoke furniture and physical art installations.
Schools can also benefit from days designed to spark creativity and innovation across various subjects within the national curriculum away from the boundaries of the classroom.
The lab will be part of a global network of over 100 similar facilities, linked virtually to allow users to collaborate on projects with others as far afield as Pretoria, Ghana and Afganistan. The Ellesmere Port lab will be the third of its kind in the UK, following the successful establishment of Fab Labs in Manchester and Airedale.
Executive Member for Prosperity, Councillor Herbert Manley, said: “I am really delighted that Ellesmere Port, with its steep history in industry, will now be placed firmly at the forefront of cutting edge technology and entrepreneurialism. “The lab will become a community inventors’ workshop where new products can be built with high-tech equipment and machinery. This access will allow users to create just about anything.
“And the benefits don’t stop there, enabling school children to access the Fab Lab will help them to think about the viability of their ideas and expand and test them – potentially creating entrepreneurs of the future.
“Local stakeholder support for the Fab Lab is continuing to grow in Ellesmere Port – creating a strong support network for the future facility – and this support will become integral to its development and success.”
The Council worked with local partners including The Manufacturing Institute, Andrew Miller MP, the Ellesmere Port Development Board, the University of Chester, West Cheshire College, Ellesmere Port Boost, and TTE Training to bring the bid to fruition.
£300,000 has been granted by the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership from its Cheshire Employer and Skills Development Fund, which will ensure the set-up of the facility and running costs for three years.
A further £100,000 will also be invested by the council over the first five-years and the Fab Lab will eventually become self-funding.
Chairman of the Ellesmere Port Development Board, Robert Mee, said: “The Board was delighted to support this bid and now that we have been successful will continue to work with other partners to encourage community interest and support.
“This exciting new development will enable local individuals, community groups and small businesses with big ideas access to cutting edge, digital fabrication technology that would usually have been out of their reach.
“This in turn will help stimulate innovation, community involvement in local manufacturing, and support economic development whilst ensuring the workforce of the future can develop a wide manufacturing skills set.”
Julie Madigan, Chief Executive Officer of the Manufacturing Institute, said: “The future of manufacturing relies on innovating through new products so it’s fantastic to see Ellesmere Port leading the way and giving entrepreneurs, schools and communities the skills and tools to bring their ideas to life.
“Over the next eight years we plan to establish a network of 30 Fab Labs across the UK by offering support and guidance to organisations and groups who are interested. By expanding Fab Labs across the UK we will ensure a new generation of advanced manufacturing skills are developed.”
The Council’s Regeneration Team for Ellesmere Port will now works with partners to continue to finalise plans for the facility whilst generating support from local businesses and the community. Andrew Miller MP, Chair of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee said: “Fab Labs were born from a project by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005 and since then facilities have quickly spread around the world – with more than 100 now in operation from the USA to villages in Africa.
“I have long been a supporter of these developments and look forward to seeing real benefits for both business and young people here in Ellesmere Port.”
Local member, Councillor Justin Madders, said: “The benefits that a Fab Lab will bring to Ellesmere Port and our communities are tremendous.
“The facility will provide access to technology, help to develop skills in the next generation of workers, put Ellesmere Port on the map for engineering and manufacturing and encourage entrepreneurs and small businesses to continue to expand their ideas.”