Tuesday, August 2, 2016

News: Funding bid for Innovation District

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Investment is being sought to turn the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District idea into reality and further work is being carried out on a potential Northern Powerhouse Advanced Manufacturing Corridor, joining South Yorkshire with Lancashire.

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.

The Sheffield City Region (SCR) Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is hoping to secure funding from the latest round of the Government's £1.8 billion Local Growth Fund. £107m would be invested in local infrastructure in the priority areas of the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMID) and Doncaster Sheffield Airport. This investment will unlock 12,500 jobs, 6,600 home, £220n of private sector investment and an economic boost of £2.7 billion.

In previous devolution proposals, the leaders have asked for a £250m commitment to the Sheffield City Region, based around the Innovation District as a national demonstrator for place based innovation programmes with LEPs. It added that "Government investment will be matched by company investment at 50% and further leveraged through local resources to deliver a £600m science and innovation programme over five years."

A key part of the AMID, the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing is busy with plans to expand from the AMP, over onto Sheffield Business Park. A move that is set to create a combined research campus that will cover over 100 acres.

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It is expected that the district would unlock private sector investment through increased R&D spend and inward investment. The AMRC campus aims to attract private sector partners to co-locate, as seen with Rolls-Royce investing over £100m in Rotherham. Proposers estimate that R&D spending across the Sheffield city region's (SCR's) manufacturing base could be increased though a range of innovation and supply chain programmes.

The AMID was one of twenty key infrastructure and regeneration investment projects from across the North pitched to Chinese investors last year by then Chancellor, George Osborne.

And the AMID could also play a key part in a corridor across the Pennines.

The SCR, in collaboration with Lancashire LEP, are undertaking a Science and Innovation Audit (SIA). The aim of the audit is to inform the translation of research to economic outputs and increased productivity. It will provide Government with part of the evidence base on which to make decisions on research centres such as "catapults" and explore how to further the region's advantages in advanced manufacturing. It will also help to inform important SCR strategies including the Strategic Economic Plan refresh and Smart Specialisation Strategy.

The bid positions the SCR and Lancashire LEP geography as the "Advanced Manufacturing Corridor" of the Northern Powerhouse.

A report to the recent SCR Combined Authority meeting explained: "The focus on advanced manufacturing reflects its importance in the corridor to the sectors that cluster there, and to the UK as a whole. Manufacturing is changing. Automation and robotics, new materials and manufacturing techniques, modes of organising manufacturing processes in more reconfigurable and customisable ways, business models which erode the distinction between traditional manufacturing and service industries, all exploiting the transformative power of new digital technologies - these all add up to a revolution in manufacturing.

"Simply put, the audit will investigate how much science and innovation is being produced, how good it is, and most importantly, how its outputs can build on existing investments and successes to drive the UK's productivity from the North."

Replicating Rotherham, Sheffield and Lancaster Universities are currently leading a £12.5m Lancashire Growth Deal proposal to establish an AMRC facility on the Lancashire Enterprise Zone at Samlesbury.

38 other LEP are bidding for a share of a total national investment "pot" worth £1.8 billion. Other parts of the SCR bid include £20m to invest in sustainable transport which will includes initiatives to increase the numbers of people cycling to work, improve park and ride facilities and improve key bus routes; £28m which includes investments in a National Institute for Infrastructure and specialist training facilities in advanced manufacturing and material in Sheffield and engineering and logistics in Doncaster; £1.5m to help disadvantaged people aged 19 to 24 people by providing specialist learning and key worker support.

Sir Nigel Knowles, Chair of the Sheffield City Region LEP, said: "Our bid clearly sets out what we need to continue to transform the local economy over the next few years. This funding will help us to build on our successes to date which have already created or safeguarded 4,330 jobs, unlocked over £200m of private sector investment, generated 2,500 apprenticeships and upskilled 1,700 employees.

"I am confident that this bid will be well received by Government officials as they continue to take steps to devolve powers and funding to enable us to make our Growth Plan a reality. Our vision is ambitious and we are determined to hit our targets – this latest bid is the latest important step we are making in order to create 70,000 jobs and 6,000 new businesses in just ten years."

Sheffield City Region LEP website

Images: Nuclear AMRC

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