Telegraph View: Taking innovation full circle

Nancy Fielder
Nancy Fielder

It seems unlikely that a strange grey powder could put Sheffield at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution.

Yet in a move which feels a little like a sprinkle of magic that is yet to be proven, that is where we stand in 2017.

As chimneys stopped belching smoke ‘sometimes black and sometimes of a rosy tint’ who would have imagined we would ever be talking about a fourth industrial revolution?

The first industrial revolution was mechanisation and factories; the second was assembly lines and mass production; the third was digital; the fourth is still being defined ... and potentially Sheffield has a huge role to play.

The combination of 3D printing and powdered metals processing can create just about anything.

The potential is enormous, as you’ll read on our Business Pages.

Our innovation and patents could bring the next industrial revolution right back round to here, where it all started. That thought would surely have put a smile on the faces of Brearley and Bessemer.

It happens in factories far removed in every way, except geographically, from those which were described so cuttingly by Orwell as ‘landscapes of monstrous chimneys pouring fourth smoke’. How our city has changed during the intervening 80 years.

As those chimneys stopped belching their smoke ‘sometimes black and sometimes of a rosy tint’ who would have imagined we would ever even be talking about a fourth industrial revolution?

Equally, would the Chinese folk buried in Crookes Cemetery many decades ago have been able to believe the extent of the impact their children are now having on this city?

You can read about how these great Sheffielders are creating jobs for every community in their city. Northern Lights: Why we want to bring commerce back to the city’s commercial road

In a world which changes so quickly, we all want our city to grow in both size and pride.

Our international reputation needs to be built upon and in order to do that, we first need to recognise just how much amazing stuff is already happening here, even from things that are as innocuous as grey powder.

That is where this city’s true strength lies – innovation and creation by Sheffielders who might look different but share that passion for our city.