Backing the UK's first Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District

Innovation District illustration

Sheffield's development as the UK’s first Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District, and the role of the University of Sheffield in driving productivity improvements and innovation, is recognised in the publication of three new independent reports.

The first, by Bruce Katz – Vice President of the Brookings Institution and a former adviser to American President Barack Obama – comes just three months after a visit to the University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing in the spring.

Katz notes that: “The AMRC contains an impressive array of specialized facilities, each dedicated to providing advanced manufacturing companies in the region and beyond access to industrial expertise, cutting-edge machines and equipment, and, ultimately, solutions to complex technological challenges."

This powerful collaboration between the University and industry, Katz says, has provided the region with “a strong base for a globally significant innovation economy.”

This sentiment was backed up by a second report, this time in the influential Economist magazine. Like Katz, the author of Under the Bonnet also highlighted the role the AMRC is playing in driving productivity gains in British manufacturing.

“Technological advances, aided by collaboration between firms, universities and government, are making manufacturing more efficient,” the Economist wrote. “Rolls-Royce, an aerospace company, has halved the time it takes to manufacture fan discs and turbine discs used in jet engines, using methods developed at the AMRC at Sheffield University.

The vision

Create the UK’s largest research led Advanced Manufacturing cluster:

  • A Manufacturing Valley along the spine of the M1, that provides a centre of innovation and productivity for the Northern Powerhouse
  • At its heart is the UK’s first Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District – a nucleus of innovation, research and technology designed for collaboration and open innovation

“The AMRC now forms part of a network of government-backed catapult centres, whose aim is to forge links between academia and industry.” The author quotes Hamid Mughal, Rolls-Royce’s director of manufacturing, as saying that these links are crucial for success in manufacturing as they create a “sandbox” environment, allowing experimentation that would never be viable for a single firm.

The AMRC contains an impressive array of specialized facilities, each dedicated to providing advanced manufacturing companies in the region and beyond access to industrial expertise, cutting-edge machines and equipment, and, ultimately, solutions to complex technological challenges.

Bruce Katz – Vice President of the Brookings Institution

The third report, Making it: The advanced manufacturing economy in Sheffield and Rotherham by the Centre for Cities, notes that: “R&D and industry-led innovation in Sheffield-Rotherham has been driven by the AMRC and led by the University of Sheffield, a UK leader in advanced manufacturing and research.”

The report’s author, Louise McGough, adds: “Many of the production plants in Sheffield-Rotherham specialise in high tech, bespoke or precision work destined for use in aerospace, nuclear, oil and gas and renewables that are highly dependent on the innovations and technologies developed at the AMRC.”

She concludes: “Supporting the university-business relationships and innovative firms that have driven the development of the AMRC and continue to power innovation on the Advanced Manufacturing Park-Sheffield Business Park site should be the focus of interventions as part of an Innovation District strategy in Sheffield-Rotherham.”

For those who are shaping Sheffield’s future, it is clear that the geography of the innovation district will need to include the city centre where so many of the district’s creative, entrepreneurial and innovative people live, work and play.

Harnessing these talents in a way that creates a more vibrant and dynamic city –and one that also complements and accelerates the growth in advanced manufacturing – will be the key challenge.

In rising to that challenge, the University will be mindful of what Bruce Katz had to say about the success of the AMRC. “The development at the AMRC has been really organic – and that is just the way the world works. It has evolved in a very interesting way.”

A better place to live, work, visit and collaborate - we’re working with partners and friends in Sheffield to help shape a culturally and economically vibrant city.

The key elements for success in place now are:

  • Internationally significant translational research facilities which are industrial scale, driven by industrial partners and focused on supply chains
  • ‘Nucleus’ of activity at Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) and Sheffield Business Park
  • Availability of a wide range of relevant skills, particularly technical and management
  • AMRC Training Centre delivers pathways through apprenticeships in partnership with local businesses to graduate and postgraduate degrees
  • Healthy ecosystem of small, medium and large firms operating in similar sectors so that informal methods of knowledge transfer (e.g. transfer of skilled personnel) are effective
  • Strong research University attracting global talent and developing new know-how and intellectual property, with a commitment to driving regional economic growth

Bruce Katz speaking at the University on The Rise of Innovation Districts:

Contributing towards the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District - proposed future translational research facilities and innovation assets

The Sir Henry Royce Translational Centre - The proposed Sir Henry Royce Translational Centre will allow Sheffield City region manufacturing companies to adopt next generation technology in the manufacturing of advanced engineering products and components: the technology of producing and processing metal powders. This translational centre (which will be complementary to the new Royce research centre in Sheffield) is a separate purpose built Centre dedicated to translation. View a short film on the Sir Henry Royce Institute.

Laboratory for Verification and Validation (LVV) - The proposed Laboratory for Verification and Validation (LVV) will create a world-leading facility for the testing of large engineering structures under real life vibration conditions. This facility, capitalising upon the University's globally recognised expertise in this field, will offer radical improvement in product design, operation and lifetime for engineering structures in many sectors including aerospace, automotive, medical engineering, civil engineering and energy. Located on the AMP2, as a flagship facility within the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District, it would accessible to engineering SMEs, large enterprises and would attract inward investment.

The integrated Civil and Infrastructure Research Centre (iCAIR) - The proposed integrated Civil and Infrastructure Research Centre (iCAIR) will provide an industry facing innovation hub that leverages our regional innovation capacity in advanced manufacturing and engineering to solve national civil engineering and infrastructure challenges. The opportunity for business growth in infrastructure is illustrated by the UK's National Infrastructure Plan which forecasts £375Bn of infrastructure investment (in transport such as HS2, Crossrail2 and energy, particular nuclear power generation). Also, given the scale of UK infrastructure assets (trillions of pounds) there are major business opportunities in innovations that allow extended life usage of existing assets.

Read other stories in Discover Magazine