REFURBISHMENT work has begun at an Irvine manufacturing site which is set to play a major role in the area's transformation under the Ayrshire Growth Deal.

The new digital process manufacturing centre (DPMC) will be located at the Booth Welsh manufacturing space at i3 in the town.

The centre is part of the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) - a partnership between the institute's operator, the University of Strathclyde, North Ayrshire Council and the Centre for Pricess Innovation (CPI).

Clark Contracts, based in Paisley, is carrying out the £500,000 refurbishment of the site.

When fully in operation, the DPMC, according to North Ayrshire Council, "aims to accelerate the adoption of digital technology for process industry manufacturers to help cut energy costs and achieve net zero by becoming more aware, predictive, and productive".

The centre is due to open next year.

Stuart Laidlaw, head of operations at the NMIS, said: “Now is a difficult time for manufacturers as they struggle with rising energy costs and supply chain shortages.

"As one of the country’s fastest-growing research and development organisations, we’re committed to helping industry embrace technology and innovation to overcome these challenges and enhance their performance to compete globally.

“The digital process manufacturing centre will bring significant benefits to UK process manufacturing businesses and the local community by attracting inward investment to Ayrshire through our world-leading research and development [R&D] expertise, training opportunities, cutting-edge digital demonstrators and supportive community of specialist technology centres, members and partners.”

The new centre was announced in June and marked the first collaboration between NMIS and CPI.

Its refurbishment includes a lecture theatre and a large collaboration and networking space.

The centre will be digitally connected to the new NMIS headquarters in Renfrewshire’s Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District Scotland, also opening next year.

The Renfrewshire site will include a digital factory, manufacturing skills academy and open-access collaboration hub.

Councillor Tony Gurney, North Ayrshire's cabinet member for economy and climate change, said: “This is really positive news and another exciting step forward in the development of the DPMC.

"It will be a fantastic asset and we look forward to working closely NMIS and CPI to bring technical expertise and academic research and innovation right into the heart of North Ayrshire.

"It will help businesses and our workforce understand new digital ways of working and ensure they have the skills and expertise to develop and grow even further.”

Frank Millar, chief executive of CPI, said: “Digitisation is essential for creating a sustainable and productive future for process industry manufacturers.

"We're looking forward to working with our partners through the new Centre to boost the adoption of advanced technologies and deliver manufacturing solutions that build a better future for both business and local people.”

Gerry Cummins, director at Clark Contracts, added, “Having worked with the University of Strathclyde for over 20 years, it is great to be continuing our relationship to deliver this innovative technology centre.

"We are also looking forward to working with North Ayrshire Council again to support the manufacturing sector across the country.”

Gillian Docherty, chief commercial officer at the University of Strathclyde, said: “This is an exciting step on the journey towards the creation of a facility that will further bolster Scotland’s manufacturing innovation ecosystem and the development of 'industry 4.0' – where our internationally leading research and digitisation capabilities will provide a major boost to productivity and competitive advantage.”

Martin Welsh, managing director at Booth Welsh, said: “The DPMC, located at our facility in Ayrshire, aligns with our purpose of 'collaborating to engineer a better future'.

"Working closely with all partners, we look forward to bringing the vision for this centre to life and allowing businesses from both within Ayrshire and nationally, practical, hands-on access to the latest technology to understand how digitalisation can help accelerate both their business and sustainability goals; an opportunity much needed in today's fast paced and disruptive world."