Growth Deal funding agreed for £18m Wrexham University project

Date: Monday, November 20, 2023

The North Wales Ambition Board has this week given its approval to the full business case for Wrexham University’s Enterprise Engineering and Optics Centre (EEOC). 

A significant milestone, the project will deliver a specialist centre for research and development, business collaboration and skills development in optics, photonics and composites as lightweight alternatives for manufacturing. It will also integrate hydrogen as a substitute fuel source contributing to sustainable practices in industry.

A key part of the project is to attract investment to North Wales and create local employment, with between 70 and 90 new jobs projected as a result of the project, and more than 1,000 people trained to deliver innovative solutions for the future.

The project will be delivered across two of the university sites – the OpTIC Technology Centre at St Asaph and the Plas Coch campus in Wrexham. 

Councillor Dyfrig Siencyn, Chair of the North Wales Economic Ambition Board and Leader of Cyngor Gwynedd, said: ‘’We are pleased that the Enterprise Engineering and Optics Centre has reached such an important stage. This is the first project within the Innovation in High Value Manufacturing programme to reach this point. 

“There’s no doubt that the centre through the expertise which already exists at Wrexham University can drive product development in low carbon technologies. And this at a time which is so critical to decarbonisation and the future success of regional businesses.”

Approval at this stage means the project can now move forward to start on site early in 2024, with North Wales firm, Wynne Construction already appointed as the main contractor for the build at Plas Coch. Engagement across the region will continue throughout 2024, with the facilities due to open by the autumn of 2025. 

The project forms part of the University’s £80m Campus 2025 strategy, dedicated to improving university campuses, ensuring that students have access to best facilities and learning environment.

The dedicated new facility on the Plas Coch site in Wrexham will sit at the heart of the campus and is the first low carbon project to be delivered as part of the exciting campus redevelopment strategy, while the OpTIC facility in St Asaph will have critical infrastructure upgrades to deliver close environmental control within the laboratories.  

Professor Maria Hinfelaar, Vice-Chancellor at Wrexham University, added: “Investment from the North Wales Growth Deal for the development of the Enterprise Engineering and Optics Centre is a key step to enhance our links with industry and key employers across the region. 

“The urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and waste from manufacturing is well-known, as are the potential cost and efficiency benefits. However, as ever-changing technology can be confusing for many, the Enterprise Engineering and Optics Centre aims to provide the facilities and researchers from the University which will help and support businesses to develop and implement the best solutions.”

Photo caption: Artist’s impression of the EEOC upon completion.

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said: “It’s great to see this innovative project moving ahead as part of the North Wales Growth Deal.  It will be a valuable asset for manufacturing in the region and will also contribute towards our decarbonisation agenda.  The Growth Deal has the potential to make a real difference to the North Wales economy, backed by £120m from the Welsh Government.  It’s good to see a local company, Wynne Construction, as the main contractor which is a further boost. I look forward to seeing this project develop and make a difference.”

Welsh Secretary David TC Davies said: “It’s great to see progress with the North Wales Growth Deal approving this important project. Wrexham University already does incredible research and development in this area, and I’m delighted that funding from the UK Government and our partners could be used to create new facilities and build on their expertise.”


Notes to editors

1. North Wales Growth Deal is a £1 billion investment to the region’s economy, £240m of which is funded by the Welsh Government and UK Government.

2. The North Wales Economic Ambition Board is the decision-making body for the Growth Deal and is a partnership between the six north Wales local authorities and the region’s educational institutions.

3. Ambition North Wales is the organisation responsible for delivering the North Wales Growth Deal.

4. Full business case is the final investment decision once a project has completed all necessary consenting and procurement activity. It follows approval of the outline business case.

5. As part of the North Wales Growth Deal, through the project, Wrexham University proposes new and refurbished facilities at Wrexham and St Asaph, respectively, to support regional manufacturing businesses of all sizes and sub-sectors in meeting the pressing and vital need to reduce carbon emissions. By introducing new lightweight materials such as composites to processing and products, along with advanced low-energy manufacturing techniques based on microwave treatment of plastics, significant weight reductions can be achieved, and substantial waste reduced in the fabrication process too. 

The EEOC will also lead the design and construction of new products through integration of composites and optics, and leading-edge research into advanced solutions supporting the adoption of hydrogen fuel. Significant weight reduction of vehicles and aeronautics, with concomitant fuel savings, can be achieved with no safety or performance sacrifice, and there.

6. Both sites will integrate the latest equipment and will collaborate with businesses throughout North Wales and border regions to implement decarbonisation solutions and increase sustainability across all areas of manufacturing. 

Businesses will be able to partner with the university to design, fabricate and test materials and components within a controlled environment. This will lead to products and systems which are more efficient and require less energy, reducing costs and emissions. 

Funding of £11.55m from the Growth Deal is being sought, matched by £4.87m capital match (part of the neighbouring campus Gateway Building) and a £1.7m cash match.