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Celebrating 20 years of levelling up in South Yorkshire

The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Centre (pictured) celebrates its 20th anniversary this year | Credit: AMRC

High Value Manufacturing Catapult

5 min read Partner content

If the past 20 years are anything to go by, the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre has a vital role to play as the UK faces the challenges of today.

Anniversaries, particularly the big ones, are a moment to both look back and to gaze into the future.

In 2021, the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) marks its 20th year; it is important to consider all it has achieved to level up Sheffield, Rotherham and the wider region, but also its promise for tomorrow. As the UK builds back, this vibrant, innovation-led manufacturing centre of excellence, with its record of job creation, apprenticeship programmes and regeneration can be a model that will help deliver on the country’s ambition to level up and deliver on Net Zero.

Twenty years ago, a drive into Sheffield along the Parkway - the road that connects the city to the M1 and the rest of the country - was dominated by views of scarred land, deindustrialisation and decline.

In the years before, the dilapidated slag heaps of the old Orgreave colliery conquered the landscape with a sprawling mass of coke ovens and smoking chimneys which were eventually extinguished in 1990, costing 500 people their jobs.

To make that same journey today is to recognise a truly remarkable transformation.

The scorched earth has been replaced with the futuristic factories of the hugely successful 150-acre Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) surrounded by the expanding Waverley residential development next door with its new homes, school, supermarket and shops.

At the centre - the magnet for this investment, regeneration and prosperity – sits the world-class research facilities of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and our sister centre Nuclear AMRC, both part of the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult.

Over 20 years the AMRC, joined 10 years ago by Nuclear AMRC, has moved Orgreave from a site of industrial confrontation, where miners and police clashed in one of the most bitter disputes in modern history, to a place of industrial collaboration home to more than 100 companies, employing 2,500 highly skilled workers across the manufacturing park.

They have been drawn in by the AMRC’s hub of engineering excellence leading the way in cutting-edge innovation; they have been stirred by the model for collaborative research involving universities, academics and industry worldwide; and they have been inspired by the pipeline of skilled people, trained by the AMRC Training Centre where 1,500 apprentices have been equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to become talented engineers.

That national impact is becoming a trademark of the AMRC, Nuclear AMRC and their fellow HVM Catapult centres.

Commenting on the many successes of the University of Sheffield AMRC, Labour MP for Rotherham, Sarah Champion, who represents the constituency where the centre is located, said:

“I am enormously proud of the huge contribution the AMRC has made to Rotherham, Britain and indeed globally. From its inception, the AMRC has been a visionary project and has harnessed the huge potential Rotherham has to offer and our skilled, dynamic workforce.

“Through its engagement with the community and local schools, colleges and universities, it offers people the chance to fulfil their aspirations locally, without having to leave the area to reach their goals. The mere presence of world leading companies on their doorstep can show young people exactly where their skill, hard work and dedication can take them.

“By providing a focus for British innovation, it promotes Britain’s global aspirations and shows that we can compete with the best the world has to offer. It also facilitates working together, across industry education and the public sector, to meet the biggest challenges our planet faces, such as the effort to achieve net-zero”.

Meanwhile, Champion’s constituency neighbour, Conservative MP for Rother Valley, Alexander Stafford, adds:

“The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre on the border of Rother Valley is a true South Yorkshire success story. The AMRC provides high-quality, skilled work to my talented constituents whilst attracting much-needed investment into our communities and promoting cutting-edge UK manufacturing and innovation.

“It plays a critical role in levelling up our region and in helping our nation reach our net zero goal. I congratulate everyone at the AMRC on its 20th birthday and I greatly look forward to what the next 20 years will bring.”

Echoing these comments, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, Paul Blomfield, said: 

“It’s shown the importance of high value manufacturing and what can be achieved through partnership between universities and business. We’ve had twenty years of innovation, attracting major investment to our region and establishing the AMRC as a model for others. The anniversary is a moment to congratulate the University of Sheffield and to remind the government of the importance of investment in research across the higher education sector.”

The AMRC footprint in the UK has now expanded far beyond the Sheffield City Region, working with other regions to help other manufacturing communities access advanced technologies that will drive improvements in productivity, performance and quality. The AMRC model for collaborative research is now in North Wales with AMRC Cymru and in Lancashire with AMRC North West, which moves into a purpose-built £20m facility later this year.

That national impact is becoming a trademark of the AMRC, Nuclear AMRC and their fellow HVM Catapult centres. Together a powerful illustration that with the right vision, the correct leadership and scale, technologies can be advanced, talent developed, communities created and landscapes transformed.

All this in just 20 years. Imagine what the next 20 could bring.

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