Sir Keith Burnett: Why Sheffield’s future is interwoven with China’s ambitions

IT was one of those moments when the past meets the future. I was standing in the Composites Centre of our university’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre looking at an astonishing piece of machinery.

The problem was how to make usable, flexible structures from a high-performance glass-like material to be used in the automotive or aerospace industry. The solution was a loom.

Our engineers needed to weave the fibres of the future. Yorkshire knows a thing or two about weaving. We contacted a local company and told them this was going to be a cloth like no other. The insights of high-tech research and the latest AI simulations led to the kind of process within high-value manufacturing that some are calling Industry 4.0.

The thing about this new era in manufacturing is that it uses automation, big data, computer learning and VR to find the secrets to transform productivity and new products.

That information, though, may well be dispersed. Rolls-Royce learns in real time about the performance of its engines. Siemens brings companies, researchers and students together through its MindSphere – the first hub of which it has put into our Diamond teaching space in Sheffield. But the insights could come from anywhere in the world.

Why does this matter? Post-Brexit, we will have to take our economy into an increasingly competitive world. The big question won’t be about One Yorkshire. We will have to hold our own in Beijing as well as Bradford, Shanghai as well as Sheffield.

Can we do that? Well only if we recognise that the value manufacturing of the future will not be produced in isolation.

I’m writing this article on one of the many high-speed trains out of Beijing’s 18 platform station, heading to a conference in Xi’an. The digital display in the carriage says that we are traveling at 300km an hour, but the journey is smooth and comfortable as I speed through unknown cities each the size of Leeds or Birmingham. When I think of the thousands of miles of track and vast transport hubs China has built while we have been arguing about HS2, I shake my head.

China used to be called “the land of the bike”, and documentaries showed paddy fields full of rural workers. But that picture is no more typical of urban China today than the idea that England is just Downton Abbey. Beijing, a city with a population twice the size of the whole of the UK, has changed beyond all recognition in the 10 years I have been coming here. And you have to take your hat off to what has been achieved. After the Second World War, the average life expectancy in China was 36 and only one person in five could read and write. Today the average life span is 76 and 95 per cent of the population is literate. Sanitation has been improved in even the rural areas. Digital connectivity is superb.

But it is the future that matters. China is transforming its economy away from a dependence on polluting inefficient factories towards high-tech innovation. Like us, it worries about cheap imports from lower-wage economies. And it wants to make sure it can keep on making better lives for its people, with clean air, jobs for the kids and healthcare for all.

To do this, China is investing big time in new technologies with the same determination with which it built all that train track. By 2020, China will spend more on science than the USA.

As part of this visit, I have been asked to address the Vice-Premier of this nation of 1.4 billion people on how we can work and trade together in the interests of both our citizens. I will be talking about what we can do together which will benefit the people and economies of both nations. I’ll also visit China’s industrial research centres for battery cars and aerospace, knowing that the combination of British innovation and Chinese dynamism is a global winner.

Working with China opens up other opportunities too. Once upon a time, the East looked to Washington. Now the whole of Asia pays attention to Beijing.

China is extending its railways into the ‘Belt and Road’ countries which were its historic trading route. If Yorkshire is smart, it will be looking hard at how we can be part of this emerging focus of economic power.

How will we do that? I’d say take a lesson from the Chinese. This country was once known for its Great Wall. Today it is building roads and rail, airports and digital infrastructure. It is looking outwards. It doesn’t just discuss the future, it gets building.

What about us? Will we realise that our future prosperity means we have to raise our sights and join with others not only from Barnsley but from Beijing?

The world is changing. We have a chance to partner with one of the great forces of the world. We should seize it. Professor Sir Keith Burnett is vice chancellor of the University of Sheffield.

Read more at: https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/opinion/sir-keith-burnett-why-sheffield-s-future-is-interwoven-with-china-s-ambitions-1-8909574

beijing

凯思·博内特爵士:为何说谢菲尔德的未来与中国命运交织

信息技术能够让过去遇见未来。我站在谢菲尔德大学先进制造中心的复合材料中心看着一台惊人的机器,产生了这个想法。

我们曾经面临这样的问题:如何利用高性能类玻璃材料制造用于汽车工业或航天工业的灵活、可用的结构?解决方案是一台织机。

我们的工程师需要用一种未来的纤维材料进行编织。不过,约克郡对纺织工业可不陌生。我们联系了一家当地公司生产,告诉他们这将是一种前所未有的“布料”。高科技研究的理论成果结合最新的人工智能模拟技术造就了新型高价值制造生产方式——有些人称之为工业4.0。

这个制造业新时代的关键就是利用自动化、大数据、计算机学习和虚拟现实技术,探索提高生产效率和研发新产品的秘诀。

然而,这些信息很可能是分散的。劳斯莱斯只掌握的其发动机的性能一手资料。西门子则通过MindSphere计划将公司、研究人员和学生结合在一起——其在谢菲尔德大学The Diamond教学楼建立了第一个产学研基地。然而,研究成果可能来自世界上任何地方。

这点为什么如此重要?脱欧后,英国将面对日益激烈的世界经济竞争。因此,我们需要考虑的不仅仅是约克郡一体化,更要考虑在北京和布拉德福德,上海和谢菲尔德都要有自己的办公室。

我们能做到吗?我想,前提是必须认识到闭门造车绝不可能产生未来的价值制造。
此刻,我正在中国疾驰的高铁上写下这篇文章,列车从北京那拥有18个站台的高铁站开出,载我前往西安参加会议。车厢里的电子显示屏显示:时速300公里。尽管如此,当列车驰过一座座有如利兹或伯明翰那般大小的未知城市时,我仍感觉十分平稳舒适。当我们在为谢菲尔德HS2车站争论不休时,中国却建造了数千里的高速铁路和巨大的交通枢纽站,想到这点,我摇了摇头。
中国曾经被称为“自行车王国”,在过去的纪录片中,中国的水田里到处都是劳作的农民。但是,今天的中国城市早已不是这幅模样,正如英格兰也非《唐顿庄园》中的那般图景。北京,这个人口是整个英国两倍的城市,自我初次到访的这十年来变化之大,已让我认不出了。

而且,你必须对中国的成就脱帽致敬。第二次世界大战结束之时,中国的平均预期寿命为36岁,只有五分之一的人口可以读写。而今天,平均寿命达到了76岁,识字人口达到了95%,甚至农村的卫生情况也得到了改善。此外,中国的数字互联之发达令人叹为观止。

但更重要的是未来。中国经济正在从依赖污染、低效的工厂转变为高科技创新驱动。像我们一样,中国如今也担心从低劳动收入经济体进口廉价商品。此外,中国希望能为人民创造更美好的生活,让人民享受清洁的空气,为下一代创造就业,为全民提供医疗保障。

为了实现这个目标,中国正在以建设高铁那样的决心,投入大量的精力进行技术创新。到2020年,中国的科研投入将超过美国。

此次访问期间,我将应邀向这个拥有14亿人口的国家的副总理讲述两国如何共同合作、相互贸易,最终造福两国人民。我将谈到有利于两国人民和两国经济的具体合作领域。我还将造访中国电动汽车和航天领域的研究中心。我深知,英国创新与中国活力的结合能让我们领先全球,带来双赢。
与中国发展合作关系也带来了其他机会。曾几何时,整个东方都注视着华盛顿,而现在整个亚洲都在关注北京。

中国正在将铁路修向“一带一路”沿线国家,那里正是中国古代的贸易之路。如果约克郡足够明智,应当认真思考我们该如何参与这个新兴经济强国的伟大战略。
那么我们该如何做?我认为应该学习中国人的经验教训。这个国家曾经以修建长城而闻名。然而今天他们修建的却是公路和铁路,机场和数字化设施。这个国家已经开始放眼城墙之外。他们不只是讨论未来,更是在建设未来。

那我们呢?我们能否意识到:只有登高远望,只有把朋友圈从巴恩斯利扩大到北京,才能共创未来的繁荣?
世界正在改变。现在,我们有机会与世界上一个伟大的国家合作。我们应该抓住机遇。
凯思·博内特爵士是英国谢菲尔德大学校长。

阅读原文:https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/opinion/sir-keith-burnett-why-sheffield-s-future-is-interwoven-with-china-s-ambitions-1-8909574