Background and aims

The Sheffield City Region is an internationally recognised manufacturing hub and home to the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre which carries out world-leading research into advanced machining, manufacturing and materials. Focusing on the Sheffield City region, the Regional Technology Foresight project is a two-year Economic and Social Research Council-funded project aimed at:

(a) identifying important future technologies for the advanced manufacturing and materials sectors;

(b) working with relevant stakeholders on finding the best ways to exploit these technologies;

(c) providing a practical toolkit that will enable other regions to adapt to their needs the foresight process that the project has developed.

Project stages

The project is divided into four stages, each developing in close collaboration with local businesses, policy-makers, the Sheffield City Region LEP, academics, and innovation experts:

  1. Regional Policy Review, leading to the Policy Learning Lab, focused on the evaluation of the regional strategy documents produced within and for the Sheffield City Region during the past five years;
  2. Identification of Emerging Technologies, leading to a Workshop designed to increase their exploitation and engage representatives of firms, universities, technology centres, public organisations and non- profit organisations, with an orientation for science and engineering;
  3. Applicability of Emerging Technologies. Concentrating on the three most promising emerging technologies, we will explore their potential applicability in the region. A Peer to Peer event will respond to these challenges through providing firms, innovation experts, policy makers, R&D centres with an opportunity to explore the potential to combine emerging technologies as a means to foster innovation;
  4. Brokerage and Exploitation. This stage corresponds to the assessment of the foresight approach developed and implemented in the project. Through an End of Project Workshop it will engage knowledge brokers (Local Enterprise Partnership, public engagement experts, knowledge transfer officers) and knowledge exploiters (firms) in the formalisation of the foresight process into a Toolkit to help firms increase their technology absorptive capacity.

Project outcomes

The project contributes to concrete regional practices and processes of identifying, transferring and integrating technological innovations. This will enable a move from the latent potential of a specific technology to implementing and acting upon foresight, therefore transforming the Advanced Manufacturing and Materials sectors' ability to create new products, services and processes.

More specifically, the project outcomes include:

  • Development of a process for strategic foresight through identifying technology innovation sources, building links across sources, and improving accessibility to technology;
  • Development of regional knowledge transfer and collective learning mechanisms to facilitate foresight, particularly in collaboration with UK Local Enterprise Partnerships;
  • Articulation of regional information brokerage structures and activities required to translate technology foresight into the development of new products, services and processes.

Each stage of the project will generate a report:

Finally, the set of practices and processes required to translate technology foresight into impactful innovation will be articulated in a Toolkit. The Toolkit will articulate the regional information brokerage structures and activities required to translate technology foresight into the development of new products, services and processes. It will be made available for use in other city regions nationally and internationally.