COLUMN: Sheffield City Region ‘can be the UK’s hub for manufacturing excellence’

John Warner, managing partner at BHP Chartered Accountants.
John Warner, managing partner at BHP Chartered Accountants.
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Column by John Warner, managing partner at BHP Chartered Accountants.

BHP is delighted to have worked with The Star on our second survey of the top 50 manufacturing companies in the Sheffield City Region, which is out today.

Last year I highlighted advanced manufacturing, a fundamental part of the region’s strategic economic plan, as SCR’s key economic differentiator.

Our manufacturing base continues to develop and politicians still talk about the “Northern Powerhouse” and its potential.

Progress has not been smooth though.

The fall in oil and gas prices has impacted on its supply chain - which is critical to manufacturing across our region.

The announcement of closures and job losses at Tata Steel are a further sign that we can take nothing for granted.

Over the next 12 months there must be visible momentum in the proposed initiatives to build upon our reputation for expertise in advanced manufacturing, especially:-

* Coordination of public and private sectors, Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership and the combined authority to maximise powers released under the devolution programme – elected mayor or not!

* Establishment of the vision and delivery programme for the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District - which would be the first in the UK. The base is in place with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at the Advanced Manufacturing Park, and now also at Sheffield Business Park with the Factory of the Future, and the positive movements on the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre at the Olympic Legacy Park on the site of the former Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield.

* Focus inward investment activities on our reputation for advanced manufacturing, from research to production, targeting OEMs and their related supply chain that can deliver significant growth and job opportunities.

Incentives available in our enterprise zones can play a key role in such initiatives.

* Continue to work closely with our universities which are key to developments at the AMRC and AWRC. The Faculty of Engineering at the University of Sheffield is another major asset to manufacturing in the SCR.

* Progress on the key objectives in the SCR Growth Plan, including:-

* Increase the number of local companies exporting through an export centre of expertise.

* Operationally establish the growth hub and an access to finance centre of excellence.

* Establish a skills bank based on the needs of local employers, continued support for university training colleges and apprenticeship schemes.

If momentum can be created in the above initiatives, the SCR has a one off opportunity to market the undoubted assets we have and to position ourselves as the centre of UK manufacturing.