City key in new northern manufacturing revolution

LANCASTER UNIVERSITY vice-chancellor Prof Mark E Smith
LANCASTER UNIVERSITY vice-chancellor Prof Mark E Smith

A manufacturing corridor between Lancaster and Sheffield could deliver the “fourth industrial revolution”.

A new Northern Advanced Manufacturing Corridor, stretching from Lancashire to the Sheffield City Region could drive productivity growth in sectors which rely on advanced manufacturing and key linked sectors, to strengthen the economy of the region and equip the UK to compete globally.

A recent audit – Driving Productivity Growth Through Innovation in High Value Manufacturing – has shown that the “corridor” benefits from £207m of grant research income per year, £161.7m of which is relevant to high value manufacturing sectors.

The corridor also has several existing and emerging industrial research and innovation centres including Lancaster University’s planned Health Innovation Campus, the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, a new technology centre for Advanced Manufacturing SMEs to be established by Lancaster and Sheffield at the Salmesbury Enterprise Zone alongside BAE Systems, the University of Central Lancashire’s Engineering Innovation Centre as well as NHS Test Bed programmes run by both Lancashire and Sheffield City Regions. The corridor also already includes strong research and development partnerships with companies including Siemens, Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems, as well as with SMEs within key supply chains in a variety of high value manufacturing sub-sectors. The audit was commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Prof Mark E. Smith, Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University, said: “Lancaster University is a source and driver of new thinking and practice that improves communities, lives and the economy. We are an international university that seeks to maximise our local and regional societal and economic impact. As such we are delighted to be a key partner in the delivery of the Lancashire and Sheffield City Region Science and Innovation Audit.”

“There is clear stagnation in the productivity performance of UK industry. Whilst there are some notable examples of world-leading businesses across our key regional advanced manufacturing sector, there are too many companies not operating at optimum levels. The partnership brought together under this SIA and the proposals we have set out will have a significant impact on better enabling the regional industries to exploit the opportunities and meet the challenges presented by Industry 4.0.

“The SIA further lays the foundations for new science and innovation collaborations that will put the region in the vanguard of developing and exploiting new innovations to ensure it can sustain and grow the Northern advanced manufacturing industries. Lancaster, as the leading university in the UK for the delivery of economic development programmes, is determined to play a significant role in moving this critical agenda forwards.”

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “Between the geographies of the Sheffield City Region and Lancashire lies a unique opportunity. One which the UK economy desperately needs.

“Within our existing Northern Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Corridor, we have strong high value manufacturing industrial bases, innovative excellence, world-class science and multi-level skills training; ensuring that the region is ready to bring the right skills, people and technology to close the productivity gap not just for the North but for the UK as a whole.

“This science and innovation audit provides a robust picture of innovation, industrial excellence and world-class research and I am confident that the other audits conducted across the UK will also show the same.

“What we need now is a cutting-edge national strategy to help regions like ours to deliver real change which will create economic growth and with it the jobs and opportunities which are so crucial for all in our communities”.

David Holmes, MAI Manufacturing Operations Director, Military Air & Information, BAE Systems plc, said: “The Science and Innovation Audit is a vital mechanism to ensure that much needed investment is targeted at the priority projects and programmes that will stimulate productivity and economic growth in Lancashire, Sheffield and across the Northern Powerhouse region.

“There is a critical need to build on the productivity performance of the advanced engineering and manufacturing sector, particularly within SMEs, to ensure we remain globally competitive.

“Key to delivering this will be maximising existing and developing new collaborations between industry and our science and innovation assets. This successful formula can be seen in practice with the emerging Northern Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Corridor and how this SIA drives new and better partnerships to deliver what’s required.”

Edwin Booth, Chairman of Lancashire Enterprise Partnership said: “The Science and Innovation Audit has definitively shown that Lancashire and the wider region is home to a number of genuinely world class business clusters, which can drive productivity, innovation and export growth for the country as a whole. Sustaining this advantage through a period of increasing automation and digitisation will require entire supply chains to develop their own capacity and draw heavily on the expertise of commercial and research led innovation partners.

“Working with Sheffield City Region and our respective higher education partners, has allowed us to properly consider sectors and supply chains which span LEP boundaries, to compare existing programmes of business and innovation support and to develop a long term partnership around this area of work.

“This partnership offers a nucleus for activity within the Northern Powerhouse, in terms of support to advanced manufacturing and energy sectors and we would hope that others will join us in this endeavour.”

The full report can be found at www.sheffield.ac.uk/business/sia.