AMERICAN business leaders have backed ambitious plans to develop a Northern ‘Silicon Valley-style’ manufacturing base in the heart of Yorkshire.
Sheffield and Rotherham councils unveiled plans for the country’s first ‘advanced manufacturing innovation district’.
It will be centred around the Rotherham-Sheffield corridor and encompass existing high technology manufacturing centred on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) at Catcliffe, Rotherham.
The long-term aim is to have cutting-edge companies and research organisations clustered near residential areas.
Improving transport links to the centres of Sheffield and Rotherham will be key aims.
Councils hope to attract funding to help the new ‘brand’ to drive growth. At present, no new money has been allocated.
Council leaders have been looking to the States for advice on building upon what already exists in Rotherham and Sheffield.
Yesterday’s announcement was made as Bruce Katz, former advisor to President Obama and expert on ‘innovation districts’, backed the project on a tour of Rotherham and Sheffield.
Mr Katz said that only Fremont, near San Francisco in California, was as advanced as Sheffield in developing an innovation district.
“This is Sheffield’s moment. You recognise the critical importance of the advanced industries and the opportunity for devolution.
“Your capability in advanced manufacturing and materials is distinctive globally, and your culture of collaboration across business, university and local government aligns well with the new network model of innovation growth.”
Mr Katz visited companies leading the way in sectors including jet engine components.
He was accompanied by Kelly Kline, economic development director in Fremont, whose 20-year career in municipal government has emphasised public-private partnerships.
She said: “Nothing could be more vital to the local and national economy than the resurgence of manufacturing.
“How our traditional manufacturing zones translate into more an innovation model presents an opportunity for Sheffield to join select international cities in reimagining a more active, connected and mixed-use district that embraces the entrepreneurship of the maker movement and the power of the global supply chain.”
Support has come from Sheffield University, which has a research facility at Catcliffe.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett said the region had a “tremendous opportunity” in manufacturing innovation which would support the UK as an exporter.
Harworth Estates owns the 150-acre AMP site which is home to dozens of cutting-edge companies.
The firm owns hundreds of acres of adjacent land, site of the former Orgreave coking works, which has approval for 3,890 homes.
Next steps will be to create a masterplan and examine infrastructure and transport.