Building city and academic bridges

National report cites University of Sheffield as leading example of how universities help drive UK regional economic growth



A report published by the City Growth Commission, chaired by the former Chairman of Goldman Sachs and University of Sheffield alumnus Jim O’Neill, recommends that the UK needs to maximise the impact of its outstanding universities if it is to build its economic strength beyond London.

UniverCities: The knowledge to power UK metros commends the University of Sheffield for its “pioneering progressive practices which enhance economic impact”, including: the University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in which multinational companies and members of the high value manufacturing supply chain pay an annual fee to access the AMRC’s resources and expertise, and then determine its research programme.

The AMRC is also home to two government-funded Catapult centres in Advanced Manufacturing and Nuclear Manufacturing, as well as a UK-leading Training Centre in which Advanced Apprentices study manufacturing engineering in a research-led environment, sponsored by employers and with progression routes onto degrees and beyond.

The RISE scheme in which the University works with Sheffield City Council to create jobs has an impressive track-record of graduate placements in Sheffield, stimulating demand for graduate skills among SMEs.

Chair of the City Growth Commission, Jim O’Neill, said: “One of the most striking things that has repeatedly influenced me since the Commission launched last October, 2013 has been the importance of our universities. While London dominates the UK’s economic clout, we have a wide geographical spread among our best universities.

“London is regarded as the single top metro area in the world for having so many top class universities, but others around the country are also recognised as being in the top echelons on a global basis.”

The recommendations of the report have been broadly welcomed by University of Sheffield Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Keith Burnett: “We are delighted that the City Growth Commission is rightly placing such a strong emphasis on the key role universities can and do play in our economy, both through the development of skills and our graduates, but also through the way work with industry and government.

“In Sheffield, we are extremely fortunate that visionary work on advanced manufacturing is now not only a national but an international focus for the translation of cutting edge research into actual production, and for the education and skills training of the highest quality which underpin this.

Richard Wright, Executive Director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said: ‘Partnership between universities and businesses is absolutely critical if we want to compete in an international world in the future. Its too simple to say that universities develop technology and businesses commercialise it but there is some truth in it. Demands on products and services increase all the time and the answers are likely to come from our universities.’

Professor Burnett added: “I was also glad to see that the City Growth Commission point out how important it is to regional economies that we have a visa system which allows us to retain talent from overseas when the need is clear. Our world-class universities have the power to do good in the region and nationally because they draw on talented staff and students from around the world.

“If we continue to be globally-leading institutions with superb innovation, the benefits will certainly be felt in our own regions and by the UK as a whole.”

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