Wednesday, June 5, 2019

News: Parks and innovation

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UK research group, Centre for Cities, has produced a paper on Rotherham's Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) and what policy makers can learn from how it is helping to transform the Sheffield city region (SCR) from a place of low-cost production to one of high-value knowledge output.

Recognised as one of the leading and most innovative engineering, research and manufacturing communities, the AMP is based on the site of the former Orgreave coking works and open cast mining in a new community being created at Waverley. It is home to the likes of Rolls-Royce and McLaren, leading names who have been attracted by the state of the art research institutions created at the site by the University of Sheffield.

Around 1,500 jobs have been created on the Waverley site, more than the 1,000 jobs during the mining heyday.

The report, called "Parks and innovation" discusses how more highly skilled jobs and advanced manufacturers exporting across the globe are needed to boost the SCR's productivity. The AMP is a cluster of these advanced manufacturing jobs and high-value added work with half of all jobs having been created since 2012, rather than displaced from elsewhere.

The report shows that the AMP outperforms other similar parks in the country and has the highest share of advanced manufacturing jobs of any in the UK.

There also continues to be a high demand from firms to locate on the AMP. At the start of the project land went for around £1 an acre. Today, prime land around the AMRC is thought to be selling for in excess of £600,000.

The multimillion pound research centres at University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) are seen as key. The AMRC launched the first centre with Boeing in 2001 on derelict wasteland. In 2004, the AMRC moved into a purpose-built facility as the anchor tenant for the AMP.

Members use the AMRC to carry out the high-skilled, high-value part of their work, making use of the state of the art facilities. Its second main draw is that it provides access to graduates, students and apprentices. The report adds that the AMRC's impact is felt across the UK and not just in the SCR. For example productivity was boosted at the Airbus wing-manufacturing facility in Wales and Rolls-Royce's disc manufacturing facility in Washington, Tyne and Wear thanks to R&D projects centred at the AMRC.

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The report states that reproducing the characteristics of the AMP in other places is possible, but will require considerable time and attention to factors such as working with universities and developing a similar open-source research model.

The AMRC is working in areas across the world but notably in Derby, Wales and Scotland. The report concludes that to replicate the AMP would need significant Government funding. The AMRC secured £70m of funding from national government and the former regional development agency, as well as £70m in European funding.

For local government in the SCR, the report concludes that further land should be made available to enable the AMP to expand (this is happening through the wider Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMID) idea) and a focus on improving skills which are needed by firms on the AMP as well as by other high-skilled exporters. The SCR is due to gain control over the Adult Education Budget though its delayed devolution deal.

The report's author, Anthony Breach, concludes: "The AMP reinforces the importance of place as a means of integrating the other foundations of the Industrial Strategy. Rather than intervening in specific sectors, to improve national economic performance, the Government should support places where knowledge is created and flows. Likewise, local government should work to improve the capacity of local economies to create knowledge."

Centre for Cities website

Images: Harworth / McLaren

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