One of the key parts of the Ayrshire Growth Deal is to be given a major ‘reboot’ after its original plan was deemed ‘unviable.’

The Ayrshire Growth Deal, agreed in 2020, included the development of the Aerospace and Space Technology Application Centre (ASTAC) at Prestwick Airport.

A total of £11m was allocated to the project, which would provide support for the delivery and manufacture of new flight products focused on the supply chain for the aerospace sector alongside both academic and industrial research and development.

A total of £6m is coming from South Ayrshire Council and a further £5m from the Scottish and UK Governments.

While there was involvement with local colleges and universities, the original approach gave the council responsibility for the academic and training element of the project.

An outline business case was due to be submitted in October 2021. However, it took a further year to be submitted and was rejected by government.

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On Tuesday, councillors agreed to pursue an alternative option that would see a partnership between Ayrshire College and UWS, focussing on strong links to Spirit AeroSystems, and their Aerospace Innovation Centre.

George Hunter, the council’s assistant director of communities, said: “The project needs a fundamental reboot around a partnership model involving Ayrshire College and UWS and for the council’s involvement to be more around the capital delivery of a solution for the ASTAC centre”.

Mr Hunter recommended appointing an external body to support the ‘multi-disciplinary’ aspects of the project.

An new outline business case will be produced in around three to four months.

Part of the offer to any partnership would involve access to the Aerospace Digital Visualisation Suite (ADVS), with the council retaining ownership.

Skypath Training CIC was an organisation that was heavily involved in the original plan.

It was allocated over £250,000 from the UK’s Shared Prosperity Fund – set up to replace EU funding.

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The council  confirmed that Skypath received funding of £50,000 through its economy and regeneration team and a further £20,000 from the Social Enterprise Growth and Resilience Fund.

In March, the Cabinet agreed to stop payments to Skypath and  bring a report to council seeking to remove them from their list of approved outside bodies.

On Tuesday, councillors were given a number of options for the delivery of the centre.

These ranged from the creation of an incorporated company under the council’s authority to a full transfer of the project to the private sector.

Many of the options reduced the cost to the council but failed to guarantee the objectives of the council were met.

Prestwick councillor Bob Pollock said: “The original operating model envisaged for ASTAC isn’t viable in a number of areas and the business case was quite comprehensively rejected by government as well.

“If you look at original model, it had the council running a higher education facility.

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“That is most certainly not our role. There are professional bodies out there, through the Ayrshire College etc that are better placed for that.

“The development of industry is crucial to this. We engaged heavily with industry asking them what their needs are."

Council leader Martin Dowey agreed, adding: “For years the airport firms were competing against each other, they need to work together to get the skilled workforce they are sadly lacking at the moment.”

A council spokesperson said they were  committed to working with Ayrshire College and the University of West of Scotland to deliver shared ambitions within the Ayrshire Growth Deal for an Aerospace and Space Technology Application Centre.

They added: “We recognise the importance of addressing current and future skills needs within the Aerospace sector and are committed to ensuring these needs are met through the establishment of a local delivery partnership.”

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