Key findings from our latest report on the advanced manufacturing sector in Sheffield-Rotherham.
An increasing proportion of jobs, and especially knowledge intensive jobs, are locating in cities, but not all knowledge based jobs prefer city-centre locations. In some cities, advanced manufacturing – combining applied research and R&D to traditional industries and carving out competitive advantages in high-tech, bespoke and complex processes – provides a significant opportunity to boost growth, but its needs are different to many other high value sectors.
Advanced manufacturing firms require larger floor plates and testing facilities than office-based knowledge intensive jobs. However, they also benefit from the ‘water cooler writ large’ collaboration and ‘networking between the buildings’ that urban environments provide. So what does this mean for UK cities who have successfully built on their legacy in manufacturing to develop knowledge intensive sectors in innovation and R&D-driven advanced manufacturing?
Our latest report explores the advanced manufacturing ecosystem in Sheffield City Region – anchored around the industry-led innovation and R&D conducted at the Advanced Manufacturing Park – and provides recommendations for maximising its contribution to economic growth in the area.
It finds that strategies for city planning normally associated with central urban areas can provide a useful blueprint for advanced manufacturing, looking in particular at the Innovation District model championed by Bruce Katz. While the geography of economic activity and innovation in advanced manufacturing is different to some of the business and professional services, or creative and digital, districts observed in other cities – many of the same principles still apply.
Companies, research institutions and employees in advanced manufacturing require many of the same ‘assets’ that Bruce Katz singles out as defining an innovation district: economic assets such as research institutions, large firms and start-ups; networking assets, which relate to the ties and collaborations between people and companies that drive innovation; and finally physical assets, which include providing the broadband, transport and facilities to create a mix of attractive places to live, work and play.
To grow the advanced manufacturing ecosystem in Sheffield and Rotherham in particular, partners should focus on a business and innovation-led approach to strategic planning. Place-making and transport decisions in particular should be firmly rooted in the needs of current and future businesses and employees, the benefits of co-location and idea sharing, and be seen as a means through which innovation activity is supported, encouraged, and accelerated.
With thanks to the Sheffield International Economic Commission for supporting the report.
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