Thursday 26 March 2015

“Ready to act with intention, purpose, and ambition” – that’s the verdict on Sheffield and Rotherham from Bruce Katz, vice president of the Brookings Institution and former advisor to President Obama, following his visit to the city region in January.

Mr Katz, one of the world’s leading figures in city development, was in Sheffield and Rotherham to see how the city region can drive forward a new Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District, centred around the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Waverley, and linking the Sheffield Business Park, the city centre and anchor manufacturers along the Sheffield-Rotherham economic corridor, in what Mr Katz termed the “Innovation Triangle.”

He has now published his findings following the three-day visit. In his report, he reflects on the scale of development achieved in just 10 years at the AMP, and has commended the ambitious vision of all those involved in the scheme, including Sheffield and Rotherham councils and the University of Sheffield.

Mr Katz’s analysis, which has been published online by the Brookings Institution, based in Washington DC, says: “The challenge of cities in mature economies is to be the best 21st-century version of themselves.

“Our visit to Sheffield convinced us that there is a strong base for a globally-significant innovation economy and a strong rationale for spatially organizing that economy in ways that recognize the common attributes of innovation districts – integration, proximity, density, connectivity, and quality place-making.

“The region, in other words, has a good hand to play and, most importantly, appears ready to act with intention, purpose, and ambition. These are the right ingredients for the kind of advanced economy that is a prerequisite for broad-based prosperity.”

Mr Katz, founding director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, which advocates the importance of cities in stimulating economic growth, is internationally renowned for his work on policy reforms and strategic investments that can drive cities forward.

He co-led the housing and urban transition team for the Obama administration and previously served as Chief of Staff to the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Bill Clinton.

From 14 to 16 January this year, he came to Sheffield and Rotherham with Kelly Kline, Economic Development Director of the City of Fremont, California.

Together they visited companies including Sheffield Forgemasters International, Alcoa (previously Firth Rixson), and Newburgh Precision, to see first-hand the evolution of manufacturing and its reliance on technology and skilled workers.

During that visit, Sheffield and Rotherham revealed a plan to create the first Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District in the UK, which will be Europe’s largest research-led advanced manufacturing cluster.

As explained in Katz’s 2013 paper on innovation districts, for the past 50 years, the landscape of innovation has been dominated by places like Silicon Valley – spatially isolated corporate campuses, accessible only by car, with little emphasis on quality of life or on integrating work, housing and recreation.

By contrast, Innovation Districts combine research institutions, innovative firms and business incubators with the benefits of urban living. Unlike traditional science parks, these districts cluster cutting-edge research in geographic areas that are liveable, walkable, bike-able, and transit connected.

Councillor Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business, skills and development at Sheffield City Council, said: “We know that, here in Sheffield City Region, we have something extremely special.

“Our expertise in advanced manufacturing is truly world-class, and we’re pleased that Bruce has also recognised this.

“But what Bruce has done is help us to shape our plans and the pathway to drive forward to the next level – to become not just world-class but world-scale – and help create a vibrant Sheffield and Rotherham that can compete with the best in the 21st century and beyond.”

In his report, Mr Katz says that the advanced manufacturing companies in Sheffield and Rotherham “make up an innovation ecosystem that draws from a pool of talented workers and applied research.”

He goes on to say that the AMP can be referred to as “the elite ‘Mayfair’ address for advanced manufacturing.”

New developments are already underway at the Waverley site. Construction began last month on Boeing’s revolutionary, £43m Factory 2050, and the project is set to finish by the end of the year.

Professor Keith Ridgway CBE, executive dean of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), said: “We are delighted that Bruce Katz, vice president of the Brookings Institution, and Kelly Kline, the Economic Development Director of the City of Fremont, in California, took such a positive view back to the US following their visit.

“As Bruce and Kelly said, advanced manufacturing in mature economies relies heavily on continuous innovation and we have already established strong foundations for future growth and development.

“Our Factory 2050 development on Sheffield Business Park and this week’s Factory 2050 conference at the AMRC, exploring the future of advanced manufacturing, demonstrate how we can build on those foundations.

“Plans to develop an Innovation District, incorporating the AMRC on the Advanced Manufacturing Park, Factory 2050 on Sheffield Business Park and local businesses will accelerate that process and reinforce this region’s role as the UK’s leading location for advanced manufacturing.”

Mr Katz’s visit was the first in Sheffield’s new International Economic Commission, which will include a series of “city charrettes” to showcase Sheffield to the world and enable city leaders to make global investment connections.

Paul Woodcock, Director of Planning, Regeneration & Culture at Rotherham Council said “We are really pleased with the progress made with Sheffield, the university institutions and the private sector towards growing the economy in the region, especially in advanced manufacturing. A stamp of approval from Bruce Katz and his team is most welcome and provides a platform to move forward together.”

Read Mr Katz’s full report here: