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Ellesmere Port Fab Lab to close

MP Justin Madders is seeking an urgent meeting to discuss closure of the Whitby Road centre

The Fab Lab in Ellesmere Port, run by the Manufacturing Institute

It was opened by the business secretary but it’s going out of business.

In a blow to the town’s historic high street, Ellesmere Port’s Fab Lab is to close on Saturday (March 5) less than three years after it was hailed as fab for the area’s future.

Funding woes are blamed for the loss of the centre, opened by then Lib Dem coalition business secretary Vince Cable in October, 2013.

Mr Cable, since knighted by the Prince of Wales, travelled to Ellesmere Port to help put the town on the world map for innovation.

Then a Government minister he opened Fab Lab, described as an exciting new venture that was expected to herald ‘a quiet revolution’ for the area.

Vince Cable opens Fab Lab in Ellesmere Port in 2013

The Whitby Road centre was designed to allow budding entrepreneurs, small businesses, young people and community groups to design and make everything from electronics and 3D scale models to games, gifts and artwork.

It is part of a network of 150 similar ventures across the world linked electronically to allow users to collaborate with others in other countries.

A wealth of manufacturing expertise was available as well as a wide variety of digital and practical equipment including 3D printers, laser and vinyl cutters and milling machinery.

Members of the public have had free use of the hi tech community mini factory during open sessions but it has also been available to businesses and entrepreneurs for the production of prototypes and to test out ideas.

No funds

Social media picked up on the closure of the lab and the Manufacturing Institute issued a statement saying it had not been possible to secure funds to maintain the Fab Lab for the next financial year.

The institute said Fab Labs had been set up to inspire people to turn their ideas into new products and prototypes by giving them access to a range of advanced digital manufacturing technology.

The Ellesmere Port Fab Lab had quickly established itself as a ‘vital resource’ for makers and over the last three years had attracted 5,500 visitors ranging from primary school children to people running established businesses.

Former Business Secretary Vince Cable at the Fab Lab in Ellesmere Port in 2013 with UCEA students Rachel O'Toole and Patrick Rabsky(Image: Rob Stratford)

Neville Chamberlain, chairman of Fab Lab Ellesmere Port revealed: “This has been a very difficult decision for us. Despite our best endeavours we have not been able secure funds to keep Fab Lab Ellesmere Port running.

“In the last financial year The Manufacturing Institute provided a grant of almost £70,000 to run Fab Lab Ellesmere Port in addition to support from Cheshire West and Chester Council.

“We’ve also submitted a number of funding bids to help with Fab Lab Ellesmere Port costs but unfortunately these have been unsuccessful.

“The Manufacturing Institute’s board has now advised that they are not able to provide further grant funding for the Ellesmere Port Fab Lab.”

He added: “I’d like to thank all the people who have supported Ellesmere Port Fab Lab, particularly Cheshire West and Chester Council.”

Concern

Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders (Lab) said: “I am deeply concerned about the decision to close the Fab Lab particularly at such short notice.

“I have requested an urgent meeting with the Manufacturing Institute to discuss their decision to withdraw funding and to ascertain whether any steps can be taken to retain this incredibly valuable facility.

“We need to have life on the high street and encourage people to get into science and manufacturing. Closing the Fab Lab is a real step backwards.”

Originally Fab Lab was a partnership between The Manufacturing Institute, Cheshire West and Chester Council, the Ellesmere Port Development Board, Cheshire Employer and Skills Development and the Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership.

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