Why devolution isn’t all Sheffield has to look forward to
I’ve always thought of Sheffield as a bit of a lost city. A city that has never really had a proposition that clearly sets out its approach. However, the city has now taken a bold approach to devolution and created a clear vision for the future.
Creative Sheffield, the economic development arm of Sheffield City Council, has laid out various ambitions and commitments that will help it achieve this vision. It stated that “by 2020, Sheffield will be a city of global significance; distinctive, successful, inclusive, vibrant and sustainable.”
As well as this vision, the city has a number of exciting new developments taking place.
A recent report published by Centre for Cities has revealed the plans for the UK’s first Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District in Sheffield, which will be Europe’s largest research-led advanced manufacturing cluster.
The aim of the development is to create an “innovation triangle” which will connect the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and wider AMP at Catcliffe in Rotherham, as well as businesses in the Don Valley and Sheffield city centre, such as Forgemasters.
This, of course, will have an impact on the local economy in terms of boosting growth. But it’s also an opportunity for the city to highlight its strength in manufacturing and compete on a global level.
International competition has held Sheffield back previously from shouting about its roots in manufacturing – particularly in iron and steel – but this new district will bring together areas of advanced manufacturing activity and innovation, and give the city a reason to really promote its offering.
The new district will be important not just for the Sheffield City Region and the wider Northern Powerhouse, but for the UK. The region’s capability in manufacturing technology and engineering is vital to the country’s economy through supply to industries.
As well as manufacturing, Sheffield also has a reputation as the ‘Outdoor City’, and Sheffield Hallam University has created the Outdoor Economy Commission to develop this area of growth. An independent report published by the university found that the city has the highest household spend on outdoor equipment in the country and high participation rates in outdoor recreation.
The findings from the report have supported the announcement that Sheffield is to host two high-profile events, The European Outdoor Summit and The International Adventure Tourism Conference in 2015.
Creative Sheffield has also launched an export development programme to ensure the city is making the most of its opportunities overseas. It provides support to businesses which have the capacity to enter new markets abroad. This is a really significant time for Sheffield to align itself with the other major UK cities in the North, such as Leeds and Manchester, but also in Europe.
Lastly, on 12th December 2014, a devolution agreement was signed giving Sheffield greater control over housing, transport, skills and business support. This will inevitably help transform Sheffield and build on its potential.
In skills, for example, Sheffield City Council will have control over the adult skills budget of around £200m, which pays for adults and young people to get the training they need for their careers.
Every year around £4.5bn of government funding is spent in Sheffield, but the city only has a say over a small proportion of it. Much of it is controlled by central government, leaving the ‘Steel City’ without the capabilities to truly punch its weight.
These different commitments and areas of focus will no doubt help Sheffield work towards achieving its vision. But as we know with any proposition like this, it’s not just about a fancy strapline or even an ongoing campaign, it’s about getting the city on-board and making the people in it part of the activity.
The next step for Sheffield is to use these key developments to create a powerful voice and mantra that can get key stakeholders and businesses alike involved and engaged, and willing to share the vision far and wide. This is a time for Sheffield to really make its mark, but it’s vital that it doesn’t forget about its most important asset: the people.
Through communications and marketing tools Sheffield can boost city morale by telling residents, visitors, students and businesses what it means for the future and how they can make it happen. Creativ