Monday, July 11, 2016

News: SCR's bid to land £60m "Project Mercury"

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A grant of up to £12m has been agreed to support £60m of inward investment in the Sheffield city region (SCR) as part of a project known only as "Project Mercury."

One of the biggest grants made since the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) took on the coordinated approach to securing inward investment, the project would support 370 jobs in the city region.

Rothbiz reported last year that a £52m pot secured by the Sheffield City Region LEP is being split into two funds - one to help grow existing businesses, and one to help secure inward investment.

Part of the £350m Local Growth Fund (LGF) allocation, half of the fund would be used in a similar way to the existing £32m "Unlocking Business Investment" programme, with the other half of the fund is to be used "to support significant inward investment within the Sheffield City" and any local authority "promoters" would be expected to repay an element of any grant provided.

Now the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority has approved the allocation of a Business Investment Fund grant of up to £12m to support £60m of inward investment in the Sheffield city region, resourced from uncommitted LGF.

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The paper was discussed in private due to the commercial nature of the proposal. Rothbiz understands that "Project Mercury" involves a Tier 1 Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and major international brand that is seeking both new R&D and production capabilities.

The private sector investment could be linked to a potential £27m light weighting research centre focused on the development of manufacturing techniques that will make use of materials with exceptional strength to weight properties more cost effective.

If it pays off, the £12m would support £60m of inward investment, £100m of additional GVA and 370 predominantly high skilled jobs in the Sheffield city region.

One of the major assets of the SCR is the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMID). Recognising that high value manufacturing can be key to driving innovation, productivity and exports, civic leaders have committed to the idea of "supercharging" the areas of advanced manufacturing in the Sheffield-Rotherham Economic Corridor. Based around the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham and surrounding Enterprise Zone, the aim is to develop Europe's largest research-led advanced manufacturing cluster.

Early proposals indicate a potential £600m centre of excellence in metals and materials manufacturing and plans to transform the current AMP and Sheffield Business Park into a central hub to the Innovation District.

The links between academia and industry have been key to inward investment in the region. The AMRC campus being planned for the site of the Sheffield Airport aims to attract private sector partners to co-locate, as seen with Rolls-Royce investing over £100m on the AMP in Rotherham.

Sheffield City Region Investment website

Images: AMRC / Bond Bryan

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