06Practical next steps

The rest of this section focuses on three practical next steps which include:

  1. Gathering a more robust evidence base,
  2. Identifying champions for the Sheffield-Rotherham Innovation District approach, and
  3. Developing key messages.

Build the evidence-base

Building the qualitative and quantitative evidence base to provide an understanding of the economy of the advanced manufacturing cluster in Sheffield-Rotherham is vital to developing a strategy for an Innovation District. The focus should be on gathering:

  • Qualitative data on businesses currently operating with the AMRC and located on the AMP-SBP to inform the policy interventions that will most support innovation, especially in the context of place-making within the site: why did they locate there, what are the benefits, what are the challenges, what would support them drive innovation even more.

Box 1: Key questions for building a qualitative evidence base

  • Are better recreational facilities or more organised events, important to supporting these businesses to sharing ideas, competing and driving innovation in advanced manufacturing?
  • How can place-making interventions support more networking between innovative firms between the buildings?
  • What are the specific challenges of boosting networking assets in advanced manufacturing?
  • What are the benefits to co-location that partners can help maximise to attract new businesses? And what are the barriers that are preventing more companies from locating at the AMP-SBP?
  • What are the skills gaps or challenges that companies face in growing their staff?
  • Quantitative data that provides robust information on the economic linkages within the ‘innovation ecosystem’, including supply-chain integration, is also required to underpin the Innovation District strategy. Furthermore, this would help to understand the exact geography of innovation, specifically the connections between the new advanced manufacturing industry and ‘old steel’, as well as the relationship between the city centre university campus and the AMP, and the wider business links between the AMP and Sheffield city centre. While it would appear that there are strong economic ties between the innovation hub at the AMP-SBP and wider advanced manufacturing corridor in Sheffield-Rotherham, in order to better understand how to approach a strategy to support this innovation and drive growth in the sector, more robust evaluation is needed.
  • Economic analysis of the role of the Innovation District in the wider economy and projections for future growth and impact would also support partners in Sheffield-Rotherham to set a clear vision for advanced manufacturing in the area, investment in the AMP-SBP innovation hub and focus activities from a wider range of local partners on supporting this innovation. This information should also inform the case for specific policy interventions or investments, such as a tram extension for example.

Identify top spokespeople

Identifying a small group of top business spokespeople who can help carry the message is also important. With over 100 partner companies including Boeing, Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, Hitachi, TATA and Forgemasters, located both on the AMP site and in the wider Sheffield-Rotherham area, partners have a significant opportunity for developing the case for Sheffield-Rotherham as a hub of innovation in advanced manufacturing, and a strong voice to deliver that vision.

Develop key messages

There is also a case for investing in branding and messaging, based on robust evidence and clear vision, in order to gain buy-in from local and national stakeholders, as well as national and global investors. The City of Fremont, for example, invested funds in order to produce the materials that would help ‘shop’ their vision and draw attention to the area. In Sheffield-Rotherham, this might include needing to re-articulate what is meant by advanced manufacturing by painting a clearer picture of how high-tech and industrial design links to the more traditionally perceived manufacturing and production in the area.