Business growth in Sheffield and Rotherham is set for a boost as the region presses forward with its vision for the first Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District in the UK.
An independent report, published by think-tank Centre for Cities, has set out the “ambitious vision” of those involved in the development, which will be Europe’s largest research-led Advanced Manufacturing cluster.
It is intended that the “innovation triangle” will connect the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and wider AMP at Catcliffe in Rotherham, businesses in the Don Valley and Sheffield city centre.
At the same time, Sheffield City Council has launched a new website outlining details of the Sheffield International Economic Commission, which aims to boost economic growth and enable Sheffield to increasingly realise its role in the global marketplace.
Councillor Leigh Bramall, deputy leader of Sheffield City Council and cabinet member for business, skills and development, said: “This is a really exciting time for Sheffield, as we take the very best of what our city has to offer and drive forward our economic vision in a bold and ambitious way.
“The Centre for Cities report highlights Sheffield City Region’s particular excellence in advanced manufacturing. This is of not just national, but international significance and by building upon this and creating an Innovation District around the AMP, we can boost the city as a whole.
“But the Sheffield International Economic Commission focuses on not just advanced manufacturing, but on those other things that make Sheffield unique, such as the outdoor economy. We are in a position to move forward with creativity and confidence.
“Securing the input of the best international experts offers a real opportunity to sell the city and City Region and help us punch our weight internationally.”
The Centre for Cities report was supported by the Sheffield International Economic Commission and written following a visit to Sheffield City Region by Bruce Katz, Vice President of the Washington DC-based Brookings Institution and author of “The Rise of Innovation Districts.”
In January this year he visited the AMP and the University of Sheffield’s AMRC, as well as prominent businesses in the region such as Sheffield Forgemasters, with Kelly Kline, economic development director in the city of Fremont, California.
During his visit to the AMRC, Mr Katz said: “This is Sheffield’s moment. You recognise the critical importance of the advanced industries and the opportunity for devolution.
“Your capability in advanced manufacturing and materials is distinctive globally, and your culture of collaboration across business, university and local government aligns well with the new network model of innovation growth.”
“Acting Chief Executive of Centre for Cities, Andrew Carter, said: “The Sheffield City Region has a strong heritage in the steel industry which has since evolved into a hub of advanced manufacturing activity and innovation.
“By focusing on growing this highly skilled, productive industry using the Innovation District model, the city region can both support existing firms to grow, and encourage new ones to locate there, helping to boost the local economy and create jobs.”
The proposed Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District aims to be markedly different from “science parks” of the 1980s. These isolated corporate campuses are usually accessible only by car, with little emphasis on quality of life or on integrating work, housing and recreation.
By contrast, Innovation Districts combine research institutions, innovative firms and business incubators with the benefits of urban living. Unlike traditional science parks, these districts cluster cutting-edge research in geographic areas that are liveable, walkable, bike-able, and connected by public transport.
The new Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District will be important not just for Sheffield City Region and the wider Northern powerhouse, but for the UK as a whole, as the region’s unique capability in manufacturing technology and engineering is vital to the country’s economy through supply to industries such as aerospace, civil nuclear, oil and gas, healthcare technologies and transportation.
Rotherham business leader Julie Kenny is one of five Commissioners at Rotherham Council, and has the portfolio for business, regeneration and inward investment.
Commissioner Kenny said: “Our work on the Innovation District is a clear example of how Rotherham and Sheffield – in collaboration with our colleagues across the rest of the city region – are equipped to take on the world in advanced manufacturing.
“We’ve already made significant strides but the involvement and endorsement of global leaders like Bruce Katz, and the increased profile that inevitably brings, can only boost our efforts.
“It’s fantastic that our work is being recognised by those who know what excellence in this field really means. This can only help our efforts to translate our vision for the Innovation District into the economic growth and sustainable increase in new skilled jobs that will make the real difference to our communities.”
Coun Bramall added: “Our unrivalled connection of industry and research-led innovation at the AMRC has been a force for the agglomeration of advanced manufacturing and technology firms.
“This critical mass of expertise and experience presents the UK with a unique opportunity to create an Innovation District of global significance, where we can design and make the next generation of whole industries.
“The innovation and expertise is already there. Now, we need to accelerate the next generation of growth by ensuring that our investment in innovation continues.”
Mr Katz’s visit marked the launch of the Sheffield International Economic Commission.
It was the first in a series of “city charrettes”, to showcase Sheffield to the world and enable city leaders to make global investment connections.
The Centre for Cities is supporting the Sheffield International Economic Commission, providing advice and insight on how to maximise the city’s opportunities.
More information is available online now at www.welcometosheffield.co.uk/siec