Sheffield City region builds on global reputation

It may be high summer (just) but here in the SCR we are already looking forward to November, when 300 high-level Chinese businesspeople and leading Government counterparts will arrive in the region for the prestigious Horasis China 2017 conference.

The installation of the new Master Cutler at Sheffield Cathedral

Last year, in line with our strategy for attracting international investment, we competed in an extremely strong field to bring the conference here, and were delighted to add this to the success of the huge investments made this spring by supercar McLaren and aero giant Boeing. This region is very much open for business.

We are a region about innovation and forward thinking, and the conference will use this platform to shape global economic thinking and approaches to social and geopolitical challenges. It’s on a par with Davos, the high-level international gathering.

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We are co-hosting the gathering with an impressive array of partners – the Horasis Global Visions Community, the China Federation of Industrial Economics, and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.

In the UK we are working with the Department for International Trade, Visit Britain and Visit England. Both our universities are involved.

So between all of us the conference will be an enjoyable and, I anticipate, highly fruitful experience for our guests and this region. The three-day programme will explore China’s trade strategy and how we make globalisation work, and we will seize the opportunity to show off some of the jewels in our crown – the Cutlers Hall, City Hall, Sheffield Cathedral, the AMRC and Chatsworth House.

This will give UK and Chinese businesses time to network informally in and amongst the serious discussions about this innovative region’s dynamic approach to investment.

A range of parallel events will include visits to key assets such as the National College for High Speed Rail and pitches by SCR businesses to promote commercial collaboration, trade openings, business school links and merger and acquisition opportunities.

We already have more than 700 internationally-owned foreign businesses operating in the region, including Chinese investors. Foreign investment has brought £2.15billion into the region in the 10 years between 2006 and 2016, creating almost 9,000 jobs.

The vote of confidence by businessman Jerry Cheung in Sheffield’s revitalised retail sector is one very high-profile example, while China, including Hong Kong, is a growing element of our overseas trade, and one of the top five countries from which we have had the greatest investment in the last 10 years.

As a region we pride ourselves on getting things done. That means looking ahead. As the UK prepares to leave Europe, we are preparing for the times ahead and forging on with our well-laid plans. Horasis is the start of a long-term and highly focused approach to our trade and investment strategies to create jobs and growth. It’s the right conference in the right place at the right time.

We know this will provide Brexit reassurance and support to our investors and the business community, and build on our reputation as a global leader in innovation and advanced manufacturing in the Northern Powerhouse. We will never discount the importance of the EU as a key trading bloc, and we are lobbying Government on the importance for the SCR of a good Brexit deal, but we are willing and eager to explore new markets.

We never stop building on the years of work that have gone into nurturing international collaborations and partnerships and creating new ones to bring in investment, high-value jobs, and supply chain opportunities. At a time when it is important to increase productivity, exporting can do just that.

So I look forward to welcoming our Chinese guests in the autumn and to discussing business and the way forward. The region’s economic assets, its unforgettable beauty and history, and the warmth of the welcome we plan will make it a truly memorable event.

* Sir Nigel Knowles, chairman of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, has written an open letter which calls on regional politicians to keep a focus on devolution.

He said: “We remain fully committed to devolution and will do everything we can to help the local politicians achieve a deal for our region and their respective areas. Confidence within and confidence about our city region has never been higher.”