AWRC Opening – Speech

Speech delivered at the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre 24/01/20

It is absolutely fantastic to see the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre officially open its doors here in the Don Valley.

As most of you will know, we stand on the site of the former Don Valley stadium. It seems fitting that, where athletes including Jessica Ennis-Hill once trained for Olympic glory, now academics and industry experts will together research and create sports and healthcare solutions, to improve the wellbeing of people around the world.

This is also a centre that illustrates the incredible relationship we have here in this region between our businesses, our communities, and academia.

Next door, we have the Oasis Academy, where children as young as four can access a fantastic education. At the UTC Olympic Legacy Park, students are being trained to become the sports scientists and health researchers of the future. And every Sunday, hundreds of children and their parents come to this very site for Junior Parkrun; together enjoying the benefits of physical activity.

The Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre stands testament not just to the expertise and excellence of Sheffield Hallam University, which has shown such vision, leadership and sheer hard work in making this project happen, but to the wider innovation we have in our region.

For centuries, ideas and products developed here in South Yorkshire have enhanced the lives of people across the globe. This centre, which will channel cutting-edge research into real-world solutions is, I’m sure, set to make our region as synonymous with advanced health and wellbeing as it already is with steel, manufacturing and rail engineering.

The AWRC, like the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre a couple of miles away, demonstrates our economic growth, and the increasing confidence investors from across the globe have in South Yorkshire.

I look forward to seeing this centre grow, develop and thrive, and seeing the impact it has on our communities. That’s because, like the researchers and academics already working here, I’m passionate about creating a region where people are more active in their daily lives.

This was at the heart of my ambition when I began my search for South Yorkshire’s first Active Travel Commissioner this time last year, and my commitment has only grown since appointing Dame Sarah Storey, Britain’s most successful female Paralympian, as our Commissioner.

Sarah has already made fantastic progress towards making our region a place where people are more active in their daily lives.

She is working closely with Professor Steve Haake, a founding member of this centre, to progress our active travel programme and I look forward to sharing the vision for our 2040 Active Travel Network later this year.

This network will prioritise people over cars, a vital step towards improving the health of our people and our environment. I look forward to seeing our vision become a reality.