Collaboration between leading local industrial firms and the University of Sheffield has long been key to the retention and development of the manufacturing sector in Sheffield.
A good example of how collaboration works can be seen in the working relationship between the university and Sheffield Forgemasters.
This is an iconic local company with a long and proud history, the successor to famous Sheffield names such as Vickers, English Steel, Firth Brown and British Steel. Edward Vickers exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851 a vast steel ingot – the largest ever in its time – weighing in at 1.2 tonnes. Today, Forgemasters still make the largest ingots in the UK, but more than 200 years of development mean that these now weigh 290 tonnes each.
Forgemasters has always specialised in large, complex, high-value products, and so good-quality research and development has always been a vital ingredient in maintaining the company’s world-leading position. The company spends between 5 and 10% of its profits on R&D, and has recently created a new focus for this research effort, headed by Jesus Talamentes-Silva, who also serves as a visiting professor to The University of Sheffield.
Specific projects run by Forgemasters in collaboration with The University of Sheffield include the creation of efficient casting solutions for reactor pump casings, and a second project to integrate a number of simulation and measurement technologies to enhance the manufacture of ultra-large forgings for nuclear power plants.
Sheffield University Management School (SUMS) recently opened its doors to its new state-of-the-art base in Crookesmoor, designed to provide local industry and students with the resources necessary to assist companies compete in the global market space.
Professor John Cullen’s work on reverse logistics has brought critical improvements in many organisations, including two major retailers and a manufacturing business, whilst Professor Lenny Koh’s Logistics and Supply Chain Group has developed a carbon reduction toolkit adopted by several major players including Forgemasters, Bridon and Muntons.
Key to maintaining manufacturing’s need for highly qualified people, The University of Sheffield offers a range of industry-relevant courses at both undergraduate and post-graduate level that this year have led to a 16% increase in numbers on last year’s intake. Gavin Douglas, head of student Recruitment, said: “The Government reform means The University of Sheffield is no longer capped in the number of students we can accept. We’ve had the flexibility to increase capacity in some of our most popular departments and recruit more, very high-quality students.”
HRH the Prince of Wales speaking earlier this month said “It is important to recognise that SMEs form the bedrock of any sustainable economy and certainly of any local economy. This is often forgotten.”
Many successful businesses that started as small SMEs have grown through the collaboration they have entered into with The University of Sheffield, as well as taking on recent graduates from the Management School or the Engineering Faculty.
The future for manufacturing in this region is bright. Sheffield remains of key importance to the UK economy as a whole, and especially to advanced manufacturing. Long may that continue.