Centre's big role in reviving Yorkshire's mining heartland

The  Advanced Manufacturing Park in RotherhamThe  Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham
The Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham
A technology centre is playing a major role in reviving the fortunes of Yorkshire's former industrial heartland.

The Yorkshire Post Business Club staged a breakfast event to mark the 10th anniversary of the AMP Technology Centre in Rotherham, which has helped to develop everything from life-like prosthetic ears and noses to Olympic bobsleighs.

The event, which was chaired by Greg Wright, The Yorkshire Post’s deputy business editor, provided the chance to find out more about home-grown inventions that are revolutionising global industries.

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The technology centre is based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park, which is close to Orgreave, where miners and police clashed during the miners’ strike in 1984. The AMP Technology Centre, which is owned by the Homes & Communities Agency, employs 278 staff, and the companies based there work for industry giants including Rolls Royce, Formula 1 teams and Jaguar Land Rover. More than 70 fast-growing companies have been based at the centre over the last 10 years. Many of the firms have expanded inside the centre or elsewhere in the park.

The entrepreneurs who have established a base at the centre include Mike Maddock, a former bomb disposal expert, who co-founded Performance Engineered Solutions (PES).

Mr Maddock told the business club event about the company’s investment in 3D scanning, a technology which is revolutionising the design industry. Mr Maddock said the AMP was a “Kensington address” for technology firms.

He added: “One of the things I like about the park, and also the management of it, is the fact that the people who run this have kept true to their values. These are hi-tech businesses working in a hi-tech environment, and that’s not diluted.

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“I think that’s crucial,’’ he added. “During the recession, it took a lot of strength to be able to hold to those values.

“It would have been quite easy just to build retail units or open offices with anybody, but it would have destroyed the model.”

Mr Maddock, who is also a former member of the British skeleton bobsleigh team, said the centre provided plenty of opportunities for collaboration with the nearby Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and Sheffield’s two universities.

He added: “We believe we’re also responsible for driving the brand of the Sheffield City Region PLC, within UK PLC, and driving our brand for the benefit of all of us.”

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Mr Maddock praised local authorities who had worked together to promote the AMP. He believes the Government should continue to be aware of its success.

“Keep bringing people up here, keep showcasing it,’’ he said. “There is a North-South divide and there is a perception about the North still..People are quite surprised what comes out of this region, and how hi-tech it is, and how innovative we are.”

The other speakers were Toby Hyam, of Creative Space Management, the centre’s managing and commercial agents, and Professor Alan Smith, the director of the materials and engineering and research institute at Sheffield Hallam University, who talked about the role universities can play in the field of advanced manufacturing technology.

The Yorkshire Post Business Club also featured a presentation from Tom Fripp, the co-founder of Fripp Design, which has created the world’s first medical grade silicone 3D printer, which is set to transform the prosthetics industry.

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Mr Fripp told the event that his company had received a long-term boost from being based in the AMP Technology Centre.

The AMP Technology Centre was opened in November 2006 by three-time Formula 1 world champion, Sir Jackie Stewart. In 2009, a £8.7m extension was attached to the technology centre and in May this year, a third building was opened by Sajid Javid, who was the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. Companies at the centre export their technology and innovations all over the world.