Senior minister backs more support for Sheffield University research centre

A senior minister will argue for more support for a booming Sheffield University research centre whoever wins the race to be Prime Minister.

By David Walsh
Wednesday, 26 June, 2019, 13:55
David Lidington chats to apprentices.

Cabinet Secretary, David Lidington, the effective deputy PM, said he had not seen anything quite like the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, which works closely with business to crack technical problems.

It was a good place to convert Britain’s intellectual and research brilliance into practical uses.

Cabinet Secretary David Lidington chats to David Walsh, The Star business editor.

He added: “I’ve not seen anything quite like the AMRC. Business and the university collaborating so closely is the key to successful innovation. Whoever is the next PM, I will be arguing that this success must be supported.”

The AMRC in Waverley, Rotherham, was key to McLaren, Rolls Royce and Boeing building factories nearby. 

Mr Lidington visited the AMRC’s Factory 2050 and Training Centre. He also toured Liberty Speciality Steels in Rotherham. He was in South Yorkshire at the invitation of the Cutlers’ Company after speaking at the Cutlers’ Feast last month, where steelmakers criticised ‘sky high’ energy prices.

He warned new challenges lay ahead. The Government has committed the UK to being ‘net carbon zero’ on emissions by 2050.

He said: “As we detail our route to net carbon zero, we will take careful account of energy intensive users. The conversation needs to be about making the transition in a way that doesn’t make industry uncompetitive.”

Steelmakers have also been pushing government to ‘buy local’ when spending its £2.5bn steel procurement budget over the next five years.

Mr Lidington said Brexit would lead to new procurement rules which would be “turned to our advantage.”

But he had no update on the Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund which is supposed to replace EU structural funds to poorer areas. Some £605m is earmarked for South Yorkshire up to 2027. But local MPs fear the SPF will not match it.

Mr Lidington said: “They are matters for the new PM to decide. It’s very important the North of England voice is heard in debates. It has a lot to be proud of and should shout about it more.”

He also supports a Brexit deal passed by Parliament and No Deal spelled danger.

“I believe it would be seriously harmful for jobs and prosperity.”

Viewed as a Remainer, he might be at risk of losing his Cabinet job in a Boris Johnson government. The frontrunner is committed to leaving the EU on Halloween ‘deal or no deal’.

Meanwhile, Mr Lidington gave the Government ‘eight out of 10’ for the Northern Powerhouse project launched five years ago.

He said there were 200,000 new firms, £13bn had been committed to transport and most of the area was covered by metro mayors.

But he wanted to see more devolution and to close the gap in school standards between North and South. And he supported northern newspapers’ ‘Power Up The North’ campaign for progress on Northern Powerhouse Rail.