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Bruce Katz
Bruce Katz

Sheffield and Rotherham reveal plan to create the UK’s First Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District

Friday 16 January 2015

Sheffield and Rotherham have today unveiled an ambitious plan to create the first Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District in the UK.

It will be Europe’s largest research-led Advanced Manufacturing cluster, centred around the Sheffield-Rotherham corridor, which is already home to the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and the wider Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) at Waverley.

For the past 50 years, the landscape of innovation has been dominated by places like Silicon Valley – spatially isolated corporate campuses, 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 transit connected.

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.

The announcement comes during a three-day visit to Sheffield and Rotherham from Bruce Katz, Vice President of the Washington DC-based Brookings Institution and author of “The Rise of Innovation Districts.”

During his visit to the AMRC yesterday (Thursday, 15 January) 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.”

Councillor Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business, skills and development at Sheffield City Council, said: “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.

“And 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.

“Our Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District will be built on the burgeoning research-led Advanced Manufacturing cluster at the AMP and across the Sheffield Rotherham Economic Corridor, but we need to accelerate the next generation of growth by ensuring that our investment in innovation continues and that the area is physically connected, transit-accessible and technically wired, with spaces designed for open innovation to deliver a place where skilled workers want to live, work and play.

“The innovation and expertise is already there, and ready to be built upon, to create a Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District of huge importance regionally, nationally and globally.”
“This is the future,” added Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Business Growth and Regeneration, Councillor Dominic Beck.

“The Innovation District is a direct progression of our work on inward investment, our Advanced Manufacturing Park and support for business – crucial drivers in expanding and strengthening our Rotherham and City Region economy and creating long-term quality jobs.

“The development will create an integrated metropolitan hub of world-leading hi-tech, innovative companies and communities where people can live. It also shows the scale of our ambition for the whole of Rotherham.

“We’ve always said that while the AMP may be in Rotherham, it is a regional and UK resource to take on the world. The Innovation District will also be a global leader.

“Having Bruce Katz here, the internationally respected advocate of this way to the future, shows that the City Region is heading in the right direction.

“As the rest of the world moves forward, we’ll be in the forefront, where we have already staked our place.”

During his visit to Sheffield City Region, Mr Katz visited the AMRC and companies including Forgemasters, the Tata Proving Factory at Newburgh Precision Engineering and Alcoa, which completed the acquisition of Firth Rixson, a global leader in aerospace jet engine components, in November 2014.

He also delivered a public lecture in partnership with the University of Sheffield at Sheffield’s recently-restored historic Cathedral, entitled “The Rise of Innovation Districts”, which attracted more than 400 guests.

Mr Katz was accompanied by Kelly Kline, economic development director in the city of Fremont, California, whose 20-year career in municipal government has emphasized public-private partnerships.

She said: “Nothing could be more vital to the local and national economy than the resurgence of manufacturing.

“How our traditional manufacturing zones translate into more an innovation model presents an opportunity for Sheffield to join select international cities in reimagining a more active, connected and mixed-use district that embraces the entrepreneurship of the maker movement and the power of the global supply chain.”

The University of Sheffield’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Keith Burnett said: “The Sheffield City Region has a tremendous opportunity in manufacturing innovation, not only in relation to our own local companies and employment but for the UK as a whole, including to support the UK as an exporter.
“The University of Sheffield’s vision to further develop its relationship with industry to produce major infrastructure in energy and transport is a focus of international partnership from China and Brazil, and seen as having the potential to rebalance the UK’s manufacturing economy by the UK government.

“This work also builds on the exceptional talent which we are fortunate enough to have within our University, at the AMRC and in the region’s world-leading companies. This asset of experience and vision means our leadership on Science and Innovation is also attracting the support of senior international figures from Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Microsoft and Battelle to deliver this potential.”
Professor Keith Ridgway, CBE, Executive Dean of the AMRC with Boeing, said: “Bruce Katz is a global expert on the development of Innovation Districts, which bring economic growth and help to create clusters of companies ranging from original equipment manufacturers to smaller suppliers and start-ups.

“Construction of the AMRC’s Factory 2050, the UK’s first, totally reconfigurable, digital factory, on Sheffield Business Park, together with the existing facilities on the Advanced Manufacturing Park gives this region a significant opportunity to develop its own Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District.

“Bruce Katz is in a position to provide crucial advice on how this region can achieve that aim and further reinforce its status as the heart of advanced manufacturing in the UK.”

The next step in the creation of the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District will be to progress the masterplanning process and undertake infrastructure and economic assessments, as well as transport modelling studies.

Mr Katz’s visit also marks the launch of Sheffield’s International Economic Commission and is the first of a series of “city charrettes,” which will showcase Sheffield to the world and enable city leaders to make global investment connections.