High-tech firms will save Sheffield’s economy, says Nick Clegg

Good point: Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is shown around ITM Power by CEO Graham Cooley.
Good point: Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is shown around ITM Power by CEO Graham Cooley.

NICK Clegg has given his backing to Sheffield’s high-tech industry to spearhead the city’s recovery from economic recession.

The Deputy Prime Minister made the pledge as he visited ITM Power, based at Atlas, in the Lower Don Valley, which is developing a hydrogen fuel system for motor vehicles.

The company has 21 companies interested in its invention, which involves using creating hydrogen from water. The hydrogen is then used to power cars, lorries and vans, resulting in exhaust emissions which are just steam and do not harm the environment.

Firms interested in ITM’s system include parcels companies UPS and DHL, and construction firms Carillion and Tarmac.

Mr Clegg, who took a tour of the company’s headquarters, said: “Far from being part of the past, manufacturing in cities like Sheffield is going to be part of the rebirth, with particular emphasis on high-tech companies like ITM Power.

“At a time when there is a lot of gloomy news around, we shouldn’t lose sight of important advances happening here in Sheffield in terms of world-beating research and design.”

Mr Clegg, who has previously visited ITM while the company was still developing its product, promised to make energy secretary Chris Huhne aware of the innovation as an alternative to battery-powered cars for the future.

He said ITM, which employs around 60 people, was one of a number of high-tech enterprises which he believes will help the city region’s economic recovery - alongside firms based at sites such as the Advanced Manufacturing Park between Sheffield and Rotherham.

“I want to create a carbon-free economy by the middle of the next century and there are massive amounts of money and jobs in the kind of work that goes on at companies like ITM,” he added.

Graham Cooley, managing director of ITM Power, who showed Mr Clegg a presentation of the company’s work, said: The advantage of our technology over electric vehicles is that you can drive 400 miles before refuelling, whereas an electric car can only go 80 to 100 miles. They are also a drain on the national grid because of people having to plug them in to charge.

“We have moved from purely research and development to production and already have some sales of our product, plus 21 commercial partners interested.”

Mr Cooley told Mr Clegg he thought the Government had ‘too much’ emphasis on electric cars as the future when other alternatives are available and welcomed the Deputy Prime Minister’s pledge to forward details of ITM’s design to Mr Huhne.