Minister praises impact of industry and university partnerships during AMRC visit

Minister Jo Johnson and Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett

Universities Minister Jo Johnson saw first-hand how universities and businesses can successfully work together to power innovation and growth during a visit to our Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing today (16 July 2015).

In his first major speech since being appointed Minister for Universities, Science and Innovation, the Minister spoke of the government’s commitment to One Nation Science – upholding the best in British science and research and developing that excellence for the whole country to ensure everyone can reach their potential.

“I am delighted to be at the University of Sheffield AMRC to see for myself the strong base on which we want to build,” he said.

“Yorkshire has a reputation for the practical and you should be proud of the practical impact of the work you do.”

The Minister was taken on a tour of our AMRC Design, Prototype and Test Centre and Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Centre (NAMRC), which are a major part of the ground-breaking High Value Manufacturing Catapult helping to stimulate growth in the sector by accelerating new research concepts into commercial reality.

The AMRC is a place of ambition, hope and change.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett

He said: “Our universities are successfully engaging with industry and the returns from collaborations are now greater than ever before.

“The Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) latest report on business-university interaction – published today, shows the value of these partnerships has reached record levels.

“Our Productivity Plan set out our ambition for universities to continue to increase their collaborations to £5 billion per annum by 2025.”

But he added: “We know that the only way to secure a truly national recovery is through a fundamental rebalancing of the British economy. This is why we have committed to 28 City Deals, signed a historic Devolution Agreement with Greater Manchester and are working towards further devolution for Sheffield City Region and elsewhere.

“To ensure that productivity grows nationally we need to empower cities like Sheffield to reach their full potential. Productivity here is currently less than half that in Oxford and London. Research and innovation have a critical role to play in plugging these productivity gaps around the country.”

During his visit, the Minister met apprentices at our AMRC Training Centre and announced that we will be pioneering a new education route for successful apprentices to study advanced vocational University degrees, as part of their training.

The quality, industry powered, apprenticeships are set to play a key role in cementing collaborations between universities and businesses and boosting UK productivity.

The ministerial visit was hosted by our Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett, a member of the Prime-Minister's Advisory Council on Science and Technology, who welcomed the Minister's commitment to world-leading research with industry and pathways to degree level apprentices.

He said: “The AMRC is a place of ambition, hope and change. I think that the Minister would agree that ambition, hope and change are at the heart of education.

“We who are privileged to work in universities treasure this privilege and we look forward to working with the Minister to ensure the United Kingdom's universities continue to be admired around the world for research and teaching which are deeply ambitious, and which address global challenges, which transform the economy and help students and graduates achieve their true potential.”

In his speech, the Minister also gave further details about Science and Innovation Audits, announced by Chancellor George Osborne in his summer budget, which will see the government work with universities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, cities, and businesses to map science and innovation strengths and identify potential areas of strategic focus for different regions.

Professor Richard Jones, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said: "We already work in collaboration with the city, Sheffield Hallam University and local businesses through the Local Enterprise Partnership's Science and Innovation Board in support of our Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District and other areas of industrial strength, including healthcare technology and the digital sector.

"We also fully support the ongoing discussions about city devolution, and we’re working closely with our partners in the N8 group of Northern universities in the context of the Northern Powerhouse. We look forward to contributing to a resurgence of productivity and growth in the Sheffield City Region and the nation more widely through our pioneering work on innovation and skills."