FT fDi magazine hail an AMP-powered success

Published 21st June 2013 at 10:46am

The FT fDi magazine has written a fascinating report on Sheffield City Region, interveiwing key players in the region.  Below is an extract written by fDi reporter Michal Kaczmarksi  on the meteoric rise of the world class Advanced Manufacturing Park. For the full report please click here.

In 1984, at a coking plant in Orgreave near Sheffield, headlines were made as miners and police clashed violently in what became known as the ‘Battle of Orgreave’.  It was a long and bloody feud that marked the end of the UK’s post-war industrial age, and for a long time was synonymous with the region.

A decade on, however, at the location widely considered to represent the deathbed of the country’s steel and mining industry, the sector was
revived. Orgreave was reborn as a place of collaboration rather than conflict. The site of the former coking plant was transformed into the
Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP), a project that symbolised a burgeoning new era for the UK’s manufacturing sector.

Steely resolve

Labels such as ‘cutting-edge’ and ‘innovative’ are often bandied about by local authorities where parks such as AMP are concerned. However, in AMP’s case, these labels ring true. The 400,000-square-metre high-tech cluster counts among its partners numerous international names, including companies such as multinational aerospace and defence corporation Boeing, aeroengine manufacturer Rolls-Royce and car manufacturer Volvo.

“Orgreave used to symbolise internal and external conflict. Now it is the complete opposite [and] AMP symbolises this,” says Neil MacDonald, master cutler at the Company of Cutlers, a trade guild of metalworkers established in 1624 to maintain the standards and quality of Sheffield manufactured cutlery and steel products.

Historically, the master cutler served as the gatekeeper of the cutlery guild but, in recent years, this prestigious title has been awarded to individuals willing to champion the local manufacturing industry.  This is because, contrary to popular belief, Sheffield’s steel industry is
still going strong. “Steel production is not gone. Steel-bashing is. The cheap commodity has been replaced by high-end production,” says
Mr MacDonald.
“Steel production employs much fewer people than in the past, but the output is pretty much the same thanks to the new processes,” says Paul Woodcock, director of planning and regeneration at Rotherham Council, the borough that houses AMP.

New processes would not be possible without brainpower and Sheffield, with two major universities, has no shortage of that. But it was the move, in 2004, by the University of Sheffield to partner with Boeing and create the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in AMP that really marked a turning point for the industry.

Over the years the centre has expanded from aerospace research, its initial field of expertise, into nuclear and metals. Soon, the model will be also applied to the healthcare and digital sectors, thanks to a $75.8m government grant.

“A decade on, AMP is a thriving community of world-class companies, and has been designated as having strategic national importance. It
has attracted more than 60,000 visitors, who come to witness this showcase model of academic, industrial and governmental collaboration. By
2016, it is estimated that AMP will employ more than 2000 skilled workers,” says Adrian Allen, a co-founder of AMP and the commercial director of AMRC.

Read more here on the FT fDi report on Sheffield City Region.