McLaren's long-heralded expansion beyond Surrey has finally come to pass as it officially declared the Composites Technology Centre (MCTC) in Sheffield open. The site, spread over four acres, is expected to create 200 jobs when fully operational, and contribute £100m to the local economy over the next decade. The ribbon cutting was deemed important enough for it to receive the royal treatment; the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will and Kate, to you) and Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa (the Crown Prince of Bahrain) all on hand to unveil a carbon fibre plaque commemorating the occasion.
As the dignitaries will have been repeatedly told, researching, pioneering and producing carbon fibre is the primary reason for McLaren's £50m investment. While the material has been integral to its cars for years, the manufacturer has had to rely on the expertise of others to produce it in volume. For a company with fastidious attention to detail and no little ambition in terms of growth, that situation was deemed undesirable in the long term - especially as McLaren's own experience of composites has increased dramatically in recent years.
Senior figures within the company have told PH in the past that a domestic and in-house means of production is a game-changer for them, and it will mean that the percentage of the car (depending on the model) sourced from the UK climbs to around 58 per cent. No less importantly, McLaren will finally have the chance to innovate with lightweight materials on its own terms - a crucial asset in a segment that prides itself on the quality of its cutting edge research.
Fittingly, and with the paint barely dry on the walls, the firm took the opportunity to point our that prototyping had already begun on the next generation of carbon fibre tubs that will replace the current Monocage structure in future models. As detailed in its Track25 plan, McLaren is adamant that its cars must become the lightest in their respective classes - even with the inevitable addition of electrified powertrains.
The MCTC gives it the best possible chance of achieving that aim, and will seek to tap into the region's "extensive materials expertise, skills, university resources and dynamism." Commenting on the opening, McLaren boss Mike Flewitt, said: "what goes on here at the MCTC will be vital for our ability to make good on our intention to continue to develop and unveil cars that are lightest in class; it is my belief that Britain - through facilities like this - can become a world leader in lightweight materials technology that will help create more efficient future vehicles.
"We are proud to be bringing new jobs to the Sheffield region which has a long association with advanced materials; first with steel and now a future to look forward to with carbon fibre innovation and production for McLaren."