Comment: Sheffield research centre’s anniversary year off to flying start
Originally published in the Sheffield Telegraph, 18th February 2021
It is a well-worn phrase that successful businesses, robust relationships and even top sports teams are built on strong foundations. The same can be applied for calendar years as well. After a frustrating 2020, for many of us 2021 will be an incredibly important year – one that needs a solid start.
At the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), our 20th anniversary year began with the announcement that our founding partner, Boeing, is committed to working with us for another five years. What better foundations could we ask for?
The renewed tier one partnership extends Boeing’s access to the AMRC research and development capabilities of until 2026. But it is far more than that.
It is an incredible investment in the value of those capabilities and a strong statement of confidence in the region’s advanced manufacturing excellence, innovation and expertise.
The agreement demonstrates our commitment to Sheffield and showcasing what we have jointly created in 20 years: jobs, innovation, inspiration and inward investment
Sir Martin Donnelly
President of Boeing Europe and managing director of Boeing in the UK and Ireland
More personally, the announcement from Boeing was especially poignant as it came exactly a year after I joined the AMRC.
When I look back at what has been achieved in my first 12 months, I see both major success stories and more foundations.
Rather than admiring from a distance, in 2020 I was able to witness the incredible achievements of our engineers first-hand as we came to national attention producing life-saving medical ventilators.
We also secured a major 5G factory project in the North West, started work on a £2million Food and Drink Packaging Sustainability Centre in Wales, and agreed partnerships with construction giant Pagabo and data science experts the Alan Turing Institute.
As important as those headline-grabbing successes were last year, though, there were others below the water line – building blocks for the months and years to come.
In 2020 we have built strong relationships with our industrial partners and regional stakeholders, and the AMRC has a model that encourages more collaboration across groups and a clear vision which we call chapter two.
None of this work wins awards but it has been critical to consolidate and create strength in our foundations.
It means that we launch into 2021 with a clear focus on how we will continue to be the engine of change in manufacturing and the region.
Like many manufacturers in the Sheffield City Region, the disruption of the pandemic was an opportunity to take stock, ask difficult questions and redefine goals.
We were no different and used 2020 as an opportunity to evaluate our position and seek out ways in which we could improve ourselves, our people and our processes.
In the last two decades the AMRC has built a reputation on being disruptive and always looking ahead, so we used 2020 as a reset button.
We have looked back to make sure we’ve captured the code of the AMRC’s success, but the fabric of the AMRC is to innovate and to constantly improve. We do not stop to pat ourselves on the back for a job well done, we look to the future and for the next challenge.
For us, those challenges fit into core themes within manufacturing: sustainability, digital, supply chain resilience, future propulsion and levelling up. Those components are important for us because they are important for industry and the country.
So what will 2021 bring? Last year taught us that you can never predict what is around the corner, but what we do know is that we start the year with strong foundations and a clear direction.
That relationship with Boeing, and indeed all of our partners, will be vital as we work towards the government target of net zero by 2050.
That objective is now less than 30 years away and with the UN climate change conference (COP26) being held in Glasgow later this year there will be more pressure than ever for manufacturers to demonstrate how they are making significant change.
Alongside that, our teams of hugely talented engineers will continue to drive innovation and productivity, our model will remain a catalyst for inward investment and the AMRC training centre’s production line of apprentices will still fuel social mobility.
If our anniversary year is the beginning of our next chapter, then renewing our partnership with Boeing was the first page. I cannot wait to read on.