By creating a new Northern Advanced Manufacturing Corridor, stretching from the Sheffield City Region to Lancashire, the UK could deliver the “4th industrial revolution”, according to the findings of a new science and innovation audit.
The audit, Driving Productivity Growth Through Innovation in High Value Manufacturing, launched at the Innovate UK conference by Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clarke MP, shows that between Sheffield City Region and Lancashire are many of the key components and assets needed to drive productivity growth in sectors which rely on advanced manufacturing and key linked sectors, to strengthen the economy of the region and equip the UK to compete globally.
Particular strengths of the corridor include: £207 million of grant research income per year, of which £161.7 million is relevant to high value manufacturing sectors.
The corridor also has several existing and emerging industrial research and innovation centres – including Lancaster University’s planned Health Innovation Campus, the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), a new technology centre for Advanced Manufacturing SMEs to be established by Lancaster and Sheffield at the Salmesbury Enterprise Zone alongside BAE Systems, the University of Central Lancashire’s Engineering Innovation Centre (EIC) as well as NHS Test Bed programmes run by both Lancashire and Sheffield City Regions.
The corridor also already includes strong research and development partnerships with companies including Siemens, Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems, as well as with SMEs within key supply chains in a variety of high value manufacturing sub-sectors.
The report highlighted opportunities for growth including a Northern Powerhouse Productivity Academy driving transformational leadership change and building on Lancaster’s partnership with BAE Systems on the Government’s Productivity Leadership Group and a pilot leadership for productivity programme called ‘Productivity through People’.
Other opportunities include a pan-northern skills programme, a Northern Powerhouse nuclear supply chain support programme, and a Northern International Catalyst Programme building on the successful Lancaster China Catalyst Programme, which forges partnerships between UK SMEs and Chinese companies.
The audit was commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and will inform investment decisions to stimulate productivity and economic growth across the ‘Northern Powerhouse’; playing a key part in the region’s contribution to the national industrial strategy and nationwide economic growth.
Professor Mark E. Smith, Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University, which undertook the audit in partnership with the University of Sheffield, said: “Lancaster University is a source and driver of new thinking and practice that improves communities, lives and the economy. We are an international university that seeks to maximise our local and regional societal and economic impact. As such we are delighted to be a key partner in the delivery of the Lancashire and Sheffield City Region Science and Innovation Audit.
“There is clear stagnation in the productivity performance of UK industry. Whilst there are some notable examples of world-leading businesses across our key regional advanced manufacturing sector, there are too many companies not operating at optimum levels. The partnership brought together under this SIA and the proposals we have set out will have a significant impact on better enabling the regional industries to exploit the opportunities and meet the challenges presented by Industry 4.0.
“The SIA further lays the foundations for new science and innovation collaborations that will put the region in the vanguard of developing and exploiting new innovations to ensure it can sustain and grow the Northern advanced manufacturing industries. Lancaster, as the leading university in the UK for the delivery of economic development programmes, is determined to play a significant role in moving this critical agenda forwards.”