Politics and the economic conditions look likely to give Sheffield City Region increased opportunities to support local businesses.
Both sides of the political spectrum see the benefits of devolving power and budgets to regions to help reduce the North–South gap.
There is talk of core cities, a centre for cities think tank and a city growth commission.
This political will supports the SCR’s strategic economic plan which offers our LEP more control of its own budget. The plan focuses on generating economic activity to create 70,000 jobs, using a SCR Investment Fund to deliver infrastructure and a growth hub to develop business initiatives.
Is our region up to the challenge of having more control over its destiny? I believe so:
Advanced Manufacturing – this is key to achieving sustainable growth.
Sir Keith Burnett of Sheffield University sees us becoming the “heart of UK manufacturing” with a high value manufacturing valley central to our region.
The Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) and Enterprise Zones – we have one of the most respected AMPs in the world. Extensions to it, obtaining further funding for the region’s Enterprise Zones and planning approval for the Factory of the Future will support our manufacturing ambitions.
The Universities – Sheffield University played a pivotal role in the development of the AMP and has ambitious plans to build on this. Sheffield Hallam University has increased its engagement with businesses and has become more commercial and innovative.
Skills – we are building skills through the University Training College, the AMRC training centre, the RISE project and Sheffield University’s vision of an industry-led manufacturing institute, ensuring high quality apprenticeships into higher education.
The region faces a rare opportunity to control its own destiny.
Will we ensure we give priority to our critical advantage in manufacturing?
Will we be ambitious enough and work closely enough with our universities, particularly in innovation and skills?
I sincerely hope the answers are ‘yes’.