Building on a historical manufacturing sector specialising in heavy steel, companies in Sheffield and Rotherham are developing bespoke products and services for the aerospace, nuclear, transportation, oil and gas and medical engineering sectors, driven by innovation and research and development (R&D) in software, data, robotics and other technologies.
The cluster of advanced manufacturing in the Sheffield-Rotherham economic corridor, anchored around the industry-led innovation and R&D conducted at the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) and Sheffield Business Park (SBP), is a key economic asset for the area. It presents a wider opportunity to boost growth and productivity and to showcase the region.
The Innovation District model, as developed by Bruce Katz and colleagues at the Brookings Institution, provides a useful set of principles for developing a strategy to boost growth and innovation in this cluster, or ecosystem. This has focused on a business-led approach to place-making, transport and skills at the Sheffield Business Park, the Advanced Manufacturing Park and more widely in the Sheffield-Rotherham innovation ecosystem.
Policies and interventions developed as part of an Innovation District strategy should focus on supporting existing businesses as well as attracting new businesses, and be based on robust evidence of what advanced manufacturing companies across the whole supply chain need to grow and innovate.
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.
An Innovation District strategy to boost growth and innovation should focus on policies that support advanced manufacturers and will boost innovation in the sector, and interventions that are part of a wider strategy to support economic growth in Sheffield-Rotherham.