Don’t dismiss our world-beating AMRC

Keith Ridgway CBE is co-founder of the AMRC which which has grown to become hugely influential in the UK and abroad.Keith Ridgway CBE is co-founder of the AMRC which which has grown to become hugely influential in the UK and abroad.
Keith Ridgway CBE is co-founder of the AMRC which which has grown to become hugely influential in the UK and abroad. | Other 3rd Party
David Walsh's report that Keith and Christine Ridgway are to leave the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre is the worst piece of news for the Sheffield City Region for many a year, writes Bob Rae, former business editor of The Star and AMRC communications manager.

The AMRC has not only played a decisive role in putting new life into engineering in the region but also in restoring its capabilities and place as one of the leading centres of global manufacturing excellence.

Professor Ridgway, together with Adrian Allen, turned a tiny Sheffield University department, with a handful of staff, into a global giant, with world-beating expertise in machining, casting, welding, additive manufacturing, composites, design for manufacturing, medical engineering, robotics, leading edge assembly technology, testing and training.

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At the same time, Prof Ridgway's wife, Christine, played a vital role in the running of the organisation, while he and Adrian Allen kept pushing the boundaries.

The AMRC was pivotal in bringing development back to Orgreave and attracting global players to the derelict site where, in the 1980s, mounted policemen clashed with striking miners.

It also became the catalyst for a surge in hi-tech development on Sheffield Business Park, following the opening of its Factory 2050 project.

What's more, the creation of the AMRC Training Centre was a major coup for the region, responding to industry needs and opening the door to a Russell Group university education for people who might otherwise never have been able to afford or to aspire to that.

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Without Keith Ridgway, I am convinced there would be no Boeing, no Rolls Royce, no McLaren plants in this region, but that just scratches the surface of the benefits it has brought to the city.

As David Walsh's report points out, the AMRC has 100 industrial partners, who each year invest significantly in the AMRC's research and now know the Sheffield region as a place of advanced endeavour.

More than 700 highly skilled experts now occupy well-paid jobs in the region, thanks to the AMRC.

And, more than 100 companies have been attracted to the surrounding Advanced Manufacturing Park.

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To see all those magnificent achievements dismissed in a brief sentence of 'thanks' by the university's current vice-chancellor Professor Koen Lamberts makes me wonder just how highly the University of Sheffield values its flagship research funding earner.

I hope the AMRC survives , but I fear its cutting edge will now be blunted.