Professor Sir Keith Ridgway told The Yorkshire Post that the current upheaval in Sheffield’s political leadership presented an opportunity to utilise the core strengths.
In an article for this newspaper, Professor Ridgway drew a parallel between Sheffield and the German city of Dortmund, a city with a comparable population and economy.
For decades both cities were dominate industrial destinations but suffered from decline when their traditional industries of steel and manufacturing began to contract in the 1970s.
Dortmund reconfigured itself around a handful of sectors and is now ranked among the 12th most innovative cities in the European Union, something Professor Ridgway argues could be easily replicated in South Yorkshire.
He argues this should be done by focusing on the core areas of advanced manufacturing, clean energy, digital and health and said that the fact that Sheffield had a new council chief executive and political coalition represented an ideal opportunity to break from the past.
In an interview with the YP, Professor Ridgway said: “Sheffield is in a good place and it just needs to be more confident then it has been previously. Perhaps now with a new regime in place it will have that confidence.
“We now have a new chief executive and a new council, I think it is the right time to start with and go with it.”
Professor Ridgway famously founded the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre which is now home to world-leading innovations and has attracted the likes of McLaren and Boeing to the region. Like Dortmund’s revival, the AMRC was forged by a small leadership team and Professor Ridgway said his vision for the city could be achieved if its great institutions joined forces.
“If you have a small group of people who have that mission, and won’t give up on it, you will get there,” he said.
“What Dortmund did, they disconnected themselves.
"They were selfishly Dortmund. We want to have industrial powerhouses not industrial museums. We need to move forward.”
One of Sheffield’s most prominent business leaders endorsed Professor Ridgway’s vision, saying the city “needed to focus on what it can be”.
Jillian Thomas, managing director of Future Life Wealth Management and a former president of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said: “Sheffield’s digital sector is one of the leading areas in the country, probably second only to Shoreditch.
“We have a real opportunity to be world-beating.
“We need to not focus on what we were but on what we can be.
“No more excuses, this is the time.”