THE GOVERNMENT has been urged to act to reap the full potential of a leading engineering centre in Yorkshire to ensure that the North of England is at the forefront of technological innovation across the globe.
The Advanced Manufacturing and Research Centre, which is based in the shadow of the former coking plant at Orgreave in South Yorkshire, represents how the region is leading the way with replacing traditional industries such as coal mining since the advent of new technologies.
Since opening in 2001, the AMRC has brought hundreds of highly-skilled engineering and scientific jobs to the region and carries out cutting-edge work for some of the world’s biggest corporations.
Professor Sir Keith Ridgway, one of the AMRC’s founders and until recently its executive dean, believes that the time has come for this model of regeneration to be rolled out across the North, a move he says will restore prosperity by re-industrialising towns and bolster GDP.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, he said: “With Brexit and a new Government, now is a really opportune time. Twenty years ago when we started the AMRC we envisaged a spider’s web across the North.
“We have an opportunity now to really gear up the North. We can go back to these towns and do a spider’s web of AMRC-type organisations.”
The engineering expert claimed that large-scale change will be needed to achieve this, and writing in today’s edition of The Yorkshire Post he calls for the AMRC to become independent of the governance of the University of Sheffield and be instead run by a network of universities across the North.
“Ownership by one university severely restricts access to world-leading research in other universities, here in the UK and from around the world,” he writes. “Having one centre also ignores regional skills and reduces the geographic spread of the impact; it diminishes the importance of place.”
Prof Ridgway also claimed that creating more highly-skilled jobs in Northern towns would bring myriad benefits.
He added: “We have a model that works, let’s widen it. Widen the ownership and widen the access to the research. It is a very critical time for the North. If the Government is putting money in then we have to get it right.”
President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, Professor Koen Lamberts, said: "The AMRC is a very important part of the University of Sheffield and its work continues to go from strength to strength. On Thursday we gave the Universities Minister Chris Skidmore a tour of the AMRC and spoke to him at length about how our model of innovation can be a key driver for development across the North and can play a leading role in rebalancing the economy.
“What's unique about the AMRC is the way that government, industry and academia work together to drive innovation and develop skills that make a measurable difference to regional and national success. We are already working with other universities to harness the benefits of the AMRC model across the North of England. For example, working in partnership with the University of Central Lancashire and the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, we have established AMRC North West, which is already providing a huge boost for Lancashire’s manufacturing sectors, including the aerospace industry. We are about to start construction on a new state-of-the-art building at Samlesbury to house and promote these collaborative activities.
"Moving forward, we will continue to work with universities, towns and cities across the North to develop the AMRC’s model for innovation in order to address challenges in a range of industry sectors - there is no need to change our operating model for this to happen.
“On Monday we welcome the AMRC’s new Executive Director, Steve Foxley. Steve joins us from Siemens and will use his wealth of leading industry experience to help drive the AMRC’s exciting next phase of development.
“The AMRC is a world leading translational research organisation that provides vital support to businesses, ranging from small start-up companies to multinational corporations. The University of Sheffield is deeply committed to ensuring that it provides the best possible support for economic development across the North of England.”