A model for the UK’s recovery

Artist's impression of the glass-walled Factory 2050, the new, �50 million development planned by Sheffield University's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre

Artist's impression of the glass-walled Factory 2050, the new, �50 million development planned by Sheffield University's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre

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On a bitterly cold November afternoon in 2003, the first sod was cut for a building that has swiftly become a beacon for Britain’s economic recovery.

The Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre took root on a slag heap that was a symbol of conflict and decline, the field at Orgreave where striking miners had felt in 1984 the might of the state.

Ten years later, that site illuminates the way forward in rebalancing the British economy.

What began as a modest construction project has established Sheffield as the harbinger of renewal.

Trade figures reveal a £21bn deficit for the three months to September 2013. The deficit represents 5.1% of gross domestic product (GDP), the biggest share of GDP for a trade deficit for more than 20 years.

A simultaneous drop in exports show the imbalance of the UK economy. Manufacturing now accounts for around 11% of GDP. Our major competitors create nearer 20% .

It is against this background that the AMRC celebrates on the Advanced Manufacturing Park its 10th anniversary with confidence and pride.

The site has become the Advanced Manufacturing Park, where pioneers of high value manufacturing have established a community of innovators.

A new Rolls Royce factory on the AMP is only the latest of many examples of blue riband manufacturers investing in new processes and considering repatriating links in the supply chain that had long been sourced abroad.

The AMRC model is the blueprint used by ministers for six new centres around the country. But there is no complacency. This year will see the opening of a 250-place engineering apprentice training centre, the first in the country under the ownership and direction of a university.

The AMP will see further sods cut, including a Factory of the Future 2050 alongside new centres for product design and testing and castings research.

Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt recently told The Guardian: “Britain has a problem which will make itself felt in the next 15-20 years.

“In the 19th century it was the most advanced engineering nation in the world. Now it has more or less given up on engineering and replaced it with finance. That means you can be hurt.”

Helmut, you may be right historically. But the wake-up call of the 2008 global financial crisis has been heard belatedly by coalition ministers and their officials. They have begun to back wealth creators.

And the model is to be found on that former slag heap in Orgreave.