Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called on industry to play a front row role in rebalancing the UK’s economy.
Speaking at the Global Manufacturing Festival: Sheffield, Mr Clegg said: “As we pick our economy out of the ashes of the financial crisis, we need to ask ourselves: what do we want the new economy to look like? How can we make it better, greener, stronger? What are our true strengths?
“Manufacturing is absolutely central to the answer. The UK already has many manufacturing success stories. But a great deal of potential remains untapped. For too long we failed to fully capitalise on our historic talent for building and making things. Now is the moment to rediscover Britain’s capacity for invention and design.”
Mr Clegg also praised Sheffield and its businesses for their impressive contribution towards this objective: “Sheffield has a heritage that we should be proud of and provides a clear path for future prosperity.”
His speech followed a Government announcement that the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing and the Nuclear AMRC, both located at the City Region’s Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP), will be the first of seven centres from across the country to make up one of the new High Value Manufacturing Technology and Innovation Centres (TIC).
He added: “I believe that the UK should be at the forefront of science, engineering and manufacturing, and the £200m we have committed to centres like this over the next four years is a symbol of the Government’s commitment to supporting this.”
The TIC will draw on university research to accelerate the commercialisation of new and emerging manufacturing technologies.
However, Richard Noble OBE, whose Thrust 2 programme brought the land speed record back to Britain in 1983, expressed concerns over the diminishing number of young people choosing manufacturing and engineering as a career choice and hence a diminishing skill base. He said: “In 20 years, 60% of the aerospace workforce will have gone. We have to do something about it!”
Richard’s latest project, Bloodhound SCC, “provides us with a once in a lifetime opportunity to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers,” he said.
The development of the 1000mph /133,000hp Bloodhound car is being developed live with all design and performance data being made available on line. The BLOODHOUND Education Programme will then be made available to all pupils in primary and secondary schools, and to students in further and higher education.
Richard continued: “Nearly 4,000 schools have registered in the first 18 months of the project, plus numerous presentations have been given to other groups and professional institutions, taking the project into the heart of the community and society.”
The Get Up To Speed event, sponsored by Tata Steel and organised by Business and Education South Yorkshire, provided the region’s young people with the opportunity to see some of the fastest vehicles and people on earth including Nicola Minichiello - Women’s Bobsleigh World Champion; and Russ Danzey – Sheffield’s next generation of racing driver who both gave inspirational speeches highlighting the fantastic benefits of engineering apprenticeships to over 500 attendees.
Matthew Dronfield, CEO at Ekspan who hosted the event, and Mick Hood, HR Manager at Tata Steel Speciality, who were the sponsors, both echoed this view. Matthew commented: “learning and earning is a valuable option for education,” and highlighted that “simple changes in next week’s budget could make huge differences.”
Mr Clegg praised Get Up To Speed for giving the region’s young people a chance to see different routes to education: “Events such as Get Up To Speed are fantastic at giving young people other alternatives to education. Hopefully you have been inspired enough to go into manufacturing and engineering.”