Supported by the Sheffield International Economic Commission, this report provides recommendations for boosting innovation and growth in the advanced manufacturing ecosystem observed in Sheffield-Rotherham: a nucleus of innovation and research-led activity at the AMP-SBP located within a wider ecosystem of businesses and employees in the Sheffield-Rotherham economic corridor and Sheffield city centre. The geography of economic activity in advanced manufacturing is different to some of the urban and BPFS or CDI-based districts observed in other cities. Instead, many of the principles of the Innovation District model should guide partners in Sheffield-Rotherham.

Building on the concept and reflections of Innovation Districts explored in The Rise of Innovation Districts, but tailoring them to the particular context, opportunities and challenges in Sheffield-Rotherham, this report has identified three key principles that should help guide an Innovation District strategy in the area.

  • Support existing businesses as well as attract new businesses. Supporting existing businesses should guide a significant proportion of interventions designed to boost the performance of the AMRC. To do so partners should gain an in-depth understanding of the reasons existing businesses have for locating on the AMP and their priorities for growth and driving innovation. Strategies for attracting new business should be informed by the need to boost growth and innovation, and be based on evidence of the benefits and barriers for businesses locating on and around the AMP-SBP site.
  • Strengthen links between innovation drivers and cultivators across the innovation geography. The Innovation District strategy should be based on a clear vision for supporting innovation and not be limited by boundaries. Understanding and developing the linkages across the ‘innovation ecosystem’ and supporting businesses and employees to engage and network ‘between the buildings’ at the AMP-SBP anchor, as well as across the wider area, is vital.
  • Set priorities and determine which interventions will achieve the best impacts. Policy decisions and sequencing should be informed by robust qualitative and quantitative evidence of innovation drivers and the businesses in the area. This should help partners to distinguish between policies that support the growth of the advanced manufacturing cluster more widely, and interventions businesses would like to see implemented in the short-term to support them to grow.

Building on these principles, partners should focus on building a robust evidence-base to inform the vision for an Innovation District and make the case for investment, identify private sector and industry champions who can be the voice for innovation in advanced manufacturing locally, and deliver improvements that support and strengthen innovation.

The challenge and opportunity for local partners is to support this business and innovation led cluster, and realise an ambitious vision, capitalising on what is already there.