Monday, November 27, 2017

News: Sheffield city region waits on sector deal

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The flagship Industrial Strategy, launched by business secretary Greg Clark this week, does not yet commit the Government to support a sector deal based around enhancing the Sheffield city region's (SCR's) specialism in advanced manufacturing and engineering innovation.

During consultation on the strategy, which is a plan to boost the economy, build on the country's strengths and embrace the opportunities of technological change, the SCR's local enterprise partnership (LEP) showed its keenness to secure a sector deal based around the existing assets in metals, materials and engineering.

Set to address barriers to growth (skill levels, inclusive growth, recognition and supply chains), the sector deal would have brought the SCR into focus, with hopefully further funding and levers to boost productivity.

In the Industrial Strategy, advanced manufacturing in Sheffield City Region is used as a cases study on regional approaches to economic development. It highlights the success of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing and the emerging Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMID), and the high-profile investments on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP), such as McLaren's £50m facility and the £110m Rolls-Royce Advanced Blade Casting Facility.

The partnerships between government and industry are aimed at increasing sector productivity. The industrial strategy states: "We are announcing Sector Deals with life sciences, construction, artificial intelligence and the automotive sector, with the creative industries, industrial digitalisation and a number of other sectors in advanced discussions."

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Following the publication of the "Made Smarter" review last month, the AMRC, which is part of the Government's High Value Manufacturing Catapult, said that it was prepared to "meet the growing demand for support in adopting the digital technologies that will be the engine of the Fourth Industrial Revolution," sometimes called Industry 4.0.

Industrial digitalisation could boost UK manufacturing by £455bn and the AMRC wants the North – with Sheffield and Rotherham centre stage ­– to become the engine room of innovation that will drive the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Backed by the Government, a science and innovation audit showed that a corridor across the Northern Powerhouse, joining South Yorkshire with Lancashire, has the key components and assets to drive productivity growth in sectors which rely on advanced manufacturing.

The Industrial Strategy added: "On-going discussions between industry and the Government on a Sector Deal are focused on how the ambitions set out in Made Smarter can be realised. We are discussing how we can build on existing pilot activities, align programmes in areas such as skills and R&D and coordinate of institutions, such as Catapults and research bodies to help realise the opportunities Made Smarter highlights for manufacturing across the UK.

"The recent Science and Innovation Audit made clear the wider opportunities for an innovation corridor that can maximise the benefits of industry 4.0."

With the AMRC also supporting the UK's nuclear sector from multimillion pound facilities on the AMP in Rotherham, the strategy adds that, on a Nuclear Sector Deal, "further details of our ongoing discussions will be announced in the coming weeks."

Mirroring the programmes delivered by the Nuclear AMRC, the focus of the deal is on how, working with the Government, substantial cost reductions can be achieved across the UK's new build and decommissioning programmes. There are shared interests in improving productivity and the opportunities to improve the UK's competitiveness, domestic capability and export growth. The sector's proposals cover supply chain, nuclear R&D and skills.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: "The way we earn and live our lives as workers, citizens and consumers is being transformed by new technologies. The UK is well-placed to benefit from this new industrial revolution and we start from a position of significant strength. We have a thriving research and science base and are home to a wide range of innovative sectors, from advanced manufacturing and life sciences, to fintech and creative industries.

"The Industrial Strategy is an unashamedly ambitious vision for the future of our country, laying out how we tackle our productivity challenge, earn our way in the future, and improve living standards across the country."

AMRC website
SCR LEP website

Images: AMRC / IBI Group

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