Official opening of National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) centre: First Minister’s speech – 21 June 2023

Speech given by First Minister Humza Yousaf at the official opening of NMIS centre, Wednesday 21 June 2023. 

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It’s an enormous pleasure for me to be here to do the easy bit – to do the official opening – and I’ll talk about the hard bit that you’ve all been involved in in a minute.

I was really grateful to the team, Stephen (Fitzpatrick) in particular for taking me around the building, giving a bit of a tour and getting to see for myself the phenomenal work that is going on here. One of the things he mentioned to me, and Chris (Courtney) referenced it a moment ago, is just how sustainable this wonderful building is, right to the point where, for example, even the rainwater is captured and used.

Now if any of you watched the football last night, you may have gathered there was a little bit of rain!

So, I think it is such a testament to our shared ambitions around net zero that we have a building that is as sustainable as this one.

Can I say that this is a significant milestone – absolutely significant milestone - in Scotland’s economy for the future. But in many ways, this also harks back to Scotland’s past, and carries on a really proud tradition of manufacturing in our country.

It has a very special place, manufacturing, in our nation’s story – our nation’s history. I know that from representing an area in Glasgow Southside – in Govan in particular, where of course, we continue to have a shipyard. We used to have many shipyards of course, an industrial hub in days gone by.

And from the early 19th century, right through to the 20th century, Scotland was a leading industrial centre – not just in these islands, but very much recognised globally too.

From steel and iron, to shipbuilding as I mentioned just a moment ago, to locomotives, and much more, we were the workshop of the world.

And of course just think about where we are today, right now, right here – Renfrewshire, with its textile mills and shipyards – very central to that pre-eminence that we had on an international and a global stage. 

And even now, of course, Scotland’s talent in manufacturing is clear.

And we have huge strength in areas: food and drink, chemicals, software, life sciences, aerospace of course, and again in that ambition that we have collectively around the opportunities of net zero.

And manufacturing is hugely important to our economy. You all are aware, I’m certain, of the statistics – it accounts for almost 200,000 jobs; more than half of our exports; and more than half of our business research and development.

So this is a sector which – to this day – benefits Scotland hugely and greatly.

But it’s also one whose strengths we have to build upon.

And that was the tenet – that was the almost entire focus of the discussion with everybody I have had here today, which is yes – we have done well – but we have potential to grow. Potential to increase our productivity through the automation process, through the use of responsible AI for example.

We have the opportunity to galvanise, to grow – and I am keen that we are partners; that government are partners in that as well.

And that’s why we place so much importance on the idea of this National Manufacturing Institute. That’s why – alongside investments of course from the University of Strathclyde, and we’ll hear I’m sure from Catapult, too – we’ve provided £75 million to make it a reality.

And that’s why I’m delighted today we are marking that really important milestone in that process – and as you can see, as I say, from this fantastic new building, the flagship of NMIS, it is absolutely stunning.

And a huge credit goes to the contractors – to Morrison Construction. The facilities here are that open-spaced design, to support a collaboration between businesses, between researchers, and everybody else who uses them.

And the state of the art equipment will help those collaborations, I think, be taken to the next scale.

I have already had the opportunity to hear just a fraction of the work that you are doing. I cannot tell you just how excited I am about the opportunities.

This is my first visit here to NMIS, I am certain it won’t be my last, as I continue to come to toast the success that we’ll see – that will emanate – from this very building.

We talk about the importance of this building, and it is fantastic, and we’ve heard a little bit about the sustainability and the operations of this building being carbon neutral.

For all the bricks, and the mortar, and the wood – what is important are the people. And to every single one of you that has been involved in getting us to this stage; to every single one of you who is working hard in order to realise the economic potential that this building helps to offer – that you can offer to us as a country and to the globe. I want to thank you for all your efforts to get us to this stage, let alone what you will do in the future.

I’m also delighted to hear about, and to meet some of those who have been involved in, the new Skills Academy too. That will enhance the opportunities for training and development that I know that NMIS can offer.

It was really good speaking to those young people in particular, who started as interns – many of them very much still part of that programme, but had come full circle, had advanced from that programme, and managed to get opportunities here and again were looking to progress their skills, and effectively saying to me, “you know, I can see myself here for many, many years to come.” That’s music to my ears, I’m certain music to the ears of those involved in NMIS, and that is the opportunity that we can seize together.

Scotland, as I mentioned - its industrial past. Yes – we should hark back, and pay homage to that past – but we should also make sure that we are absolutely the epicentre, the preeminent country in the world, that people look to when it comes to that advanced manufacturing; when it comes to manufacturing to solve the greatest challenges that our globe faces, but also seizing the opportunities that are there.

So that’s why I’m so excited about what we’re doing here at NMIS. Whether it’s in the renewable space, or the aerospace space, or indeed in the many other sectors that I’ve already referenced.

So let me thank everybody involved – delighted, as I say, to be in this fantastic building, that I’m told with its wooden frame it means it has a much lower carbon footprint, and 1,600 solar panels on the roof make this building operationally carbon neutral. So a great example, this building itself, in terms of the net zero ambitions that we all have.

So let me end by thanking you all once again for the individual roles that you have all played. Thank you to everybody who has made me feel very welcome indeed, and thank you very much in advance for all of the incredible work - the exciting work - that I look forward to seeing that you will do for the good of the country, but also I’m certain in helping to solve some of the biggest challenges the globe faces as well.

So it now gives me great pleasure to – shortly – pull the curtain back and of course declare this flagship building – the National Manufacturing Institute of Scotland – officially open.

So, without any further adieu, I think we can now declare this wonderful building open.

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