The boss of the Confederation of British Industry has called for a “strategic, long-term industrial strategy” for Sheffield to capitalise on its position as a world leader in advanced manufacturing.
Paul Drechsler, president of the CBI – the UK’s largest business group – will also focus on Sheffield’s universities and transport links in a speech at the body’s Yorkshire and Humber’s inaugural Sheffield dinner, to be held at Sheffield City Hall.
Mr Drechsler will say: “For decades, Yorkshire has been known for manufacturing. Today, South Yorkshire, in particular, has taken manufacturing to the next level.
“When firms can’t solve their problems anywhere else, they come to the Sheffield City Region. Right now, nine local authorities are working with the area’s fantastic universities, making this region a magnet for innovation.
“Last month, Rotherham’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre celebrated its centenary, and now boasts a ‘roll call’ of global giants.
“In years to come, when you see a Boeing plane in the sky, the wing flaps that got it there will be built in Rotherham. And when you see a McLaren sports car on the roads, its chassis will have been built in Rotherham too.
“So, it’s clear that Sheffield City Region is a world leader in advanced manufacturing. But, what we need now is a strategy. Whichever party gets the most votes this evening will need an Industrial Strategy.
“An Industrial Strategy which is a ‘survivor’ – which makes it through the elections and politics and comes out the other side unharmed. We want to see a newly created unit modelled on Office for Budget Responsibility, which would measure the Industrial Strategy’s progress towards its goals, such as reducing regional inequalities.”
Mr Drechsler will also praise the region’s university sector, saying it helps to promote the region’s interests globally and increases Yorkshire’s reputation as an international epicentre for excellence and innovation.
“The first thing that we should celebrate tonight are Sheffield’s world-class universities,” he will say.
“The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University is leading the charge for the city’s gaming industry, attracting students from all over the world with the largest PlayStation laboratory outside of California.
“That’s fantastic. And let’s remember that every satisfied customer of our world-class education system is a mini-trade envoy for the United Kingdom. Every time someone in China mentions Sheffield or York or Leeds at the dinner table, we’re spreading our influence.
“Every time someone in India looks proudly at a degree certificate from a British university sitting on a mantelpiece, we’re spreading our influence.
“Every time someone in Malaysia Googles the league tables and sees our universities at the top, we’re spreading our influence.
“On investment, on research, on innovation. Our world class universities are an asset, and that’s something we should shout about.”
Sheffield Chamber of Commerce executive director, Richard Wright, said: “It’s not often we get the recognition for what we are achieving from other areas or organisations but all of us who live here understand the hard work that has gone into delivering growth and investment, and the momentum we have built up.
“With respect to the Industrial Strategy, his call for a long-term approach is absolutely right. Sheffield Chamber’s response to the Green Paper was very much along those lines except that we called for cross government departmental, and cross-party agreement to underpin this.”
Mr Drechsler’s intervention is the second time he has spoken out on the state of Yorkshire’s economy.
In October last year he used the CBI Yorkshire annual dinner to take aim at the political deadlock surrounding devolution settlements for much of the north, saying a northern powerhouse without Yorkshire was a “contradiction in terms” and that the North could not just settle for “Manchester plus”.
In the ensuing months city region mayors have been elected in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Tees Valley, with elections for Sheffield City Region scheduled for next year.
A deal for the remainder of Yorkshire remains locked in partisan deadlock.