Stepping up to levelling up

21 October 2020

Steve Foxley joins Juergen Maier – his former mentor at Siemens – on a virtual stage at the Great Northern Conference this week, along with McLaren’s Ruth Nic Aoidh, where all three will share their passion for manufacturing innovation that minimises industry’s carbon footprint while maximising its social benefits.

Ahead of tomorrow’s conference, University of Sheffield AMRC CEO Foxley, described the event as a great opportunity to put the Sheffield City Region and the North centre stage in the levelling-up and sustainability agendas. With its unrivalled industrial R&D assets, Sheffield City Region is home to the world’s first Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District, a brilliant platform for accelerating a greener recovery.

“The Covid pandemic has shone a fierce spotlight on the importance of manufacturing to the health and well-being of our country and to our vulnerability to breaks in extended global supply chains,” says Foxley.

“We share the government’s ambition to build back better. But we can only do this by creating a much more resilient economy based on a home-grown manufacturing capability sufficiently strong to withstand sudden and unexpected external shocks such as the continuing pandemic.”

We share the government’s ambition to build back better. But we can only do this by creating a much more resilient economy based on a home-grown manufacturing capability sufficiently strong to withstand sudden and unexpected external shocks such as the continuing pandemic.

Foxley will tell his audience that while the government is rightly focused on dealing with Covid, the bigger challenges of climate change and the UK’s dismal productivity performance since the 2008 financial crash still need to be addressed. 

“The massive investment promised in applied industrial research and development is key to turning both these threats into a massive opportunity for sustainable economic growth and making the UK a science superpower,” says Foxley. 

But money alone is not enough, he will tell his audience. “The secret of success can be found in the three ingredients that have made the AMRC a role model for industrial innovation around the world: clarity of vision, close collaboration between the public and private sectors, and leadership. It is these three ingredients that have made the AMRC and the Sheffield City Region the partner of choice for global manufacturing brands looking to make step-changes in productivity.”

This focus was echoed earlier in the year when Barnsley Central MP and SCR Mayor, Dan Jarvis, led a debate in the House of Commons on the importance of productivity. Being part of a productive economy, he said, is about much more than dry statistics. It builds intangible bonds between people and places. It enables our children to grow up full of ambition and aspiration and to be confident that we are building a world in which their hopes and dreams can be realised. And it produces an economy that creates wealth, enabling investment in public services, people and communities.

The massive investment promised in applied industrial research and development is key to turning both these threats into a massive opportunity for sustainable economic growth and making the UK a science superpower.

Foxley will argue that productivity and sustainability must go hand in hand. The Sheffield City Region and the North are already stepping up to the levelling up agenda: finding innovative engineering and manufacturing solutions for Jet Zero by developing sustainable fuels and propulsion systems for aviation; turbocharging wind energy by increasing capacity to 40GW by 2030; leading the transition to a hydrogen economy; designing and building small modular reactors; fast forwarding to net zero fusion energy; and accelerating the adoption of industrial digitalisation. 

But, make no mistake, Foxley will say: this will not be easy. “The anticipated benefits from building zero carbon transportation, developing more offshore wind power, creating a whole new hydrogen economy can only be realised if we are the evangelists for designing, engineering and manufacturing these solutions in a sustainable way; enabling circular factory methodologies that help reduce the overall carbon intensity of these clean solutions we’re looking to implement.” 

If the government is looking to fund researchers in a ‘moon-shot’ challenge, this is it.

Register for the Great Northern Conference here.

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