Op-ed: Boeing milestone is key to new global corridor of innovation

For generations of South Yorkshire men and women, the border between Sheffield and Rotherham has been a place of industry, community, and hard graft.

Where once coal was pulled from the ground to power our economy, now that economy is powered by advances in manufacturing, engineering and aerospace. Indeed, more people now work at the Advanced Manufacturing Park, on the site of the former Orgreave colliery, than they did in the pit during coal’s heyday.

Sheffield City Region’s strong heritage in manufacturing industry is now reshaping manufacturing for the 21st century. And this couldn’t be more evident than in the companies growing our Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMID), at the heart of the emerging Global Innovation Corridor,

Two weeks ago I opened three new University of Sheffield advanced engineering centres, and this week I’m once again at the heart of AMID, launching Boeing Sheffield. In November I will join colleagues at the launch of McLaren’s new facility. Something special is happening.

What is emerging is a compelling story of a resurgent region. We’re seeing a first time in a generation growth in advanced manufacturing and engineering jobs. And we’re adding exciting new chapters to our region’s great innovation, research and “making” story.

We are a region that is already embedded in the fabric of the modern world. In bridges. In railways. In skyscrapers. In nuclear power stations. In jet engines. In cars. In ships. In medical instruments. And I’m delighted Boeing is helping us write this new chapter.

We are a region at the very heart of the United Kingdom, superbly connected to the national rail network, close to Manchester, York, Leeds and London with connectivity through road, rail and air and connected to the international sea ports of Hull and the Humber.

We have a set of potentially globally significant assets; the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District, Doncaster Sheffield Airport, a growing band of global manufacturers to complement our indigenous business base, the National College for High Speed Rail, the AMRC Training Centre, a growing digital tech sector and two world-class Universities that are deeply rooted in our economic and social fabric.

And this is why I have been developing a vision for a Global Innovation Corridor that draws these assets together – and harnesses them to build a sum that is even greater than its parts.

The Global Innovation Corridor will be based on our region’s capabilities – our specialisms in composites and new materials, in 3D printing, in machining, in forging and in casting. It will connect the region more effectively to the UK’s fastest-growing airport, attract new global investors, and link our business community to the opportunities of being part of global supply chains. And it will position our businesses to compete in sectors such as energy, aerospace, automotive and rail engineering. Boeing Sheffield will be central to this.

This is a region with its best days in front of it, rather than behind. We’re putting in place the right assets, developing the right people and growing and attracting the right businesses. And we’re doing it by focusing on what we’re good at.

Truly collaborative relationships forged between political leaders, the public sector and the private sector are, together, making a big difference. Pioneering research is providing innovative solutions to real-world problems.

As Mayor, I’m determined that this cutting-edge research and innovation is a catalyst for new opportunities, new jobs, higher wages and greater prosperity for everyone in our region.

As part of the platform I was elected upon, I promised to fight for a more inclusive form of prosperity. In order to do this I will establish a more vibrant, successful and co-operative economy in South Yorkshire. That means all of us playing our part in creating the economy we need, as well as benefiting from the proceeds of growth. And I’m proud we’re making real progress in driving this vision forward.

Being shortlisted for millions of pounds in Transforming Cities funding by the Government means that the vision is already starting to become a reality. But we cannot be complacent. We need to continue being ambitious, being bold, and telling the world why we’re excellent at what we do.

I want our children to grow up knowing that the future of aerospace, automotive and digital technologies is right here on their doorstep – and, whatever school they go to and wherever they live, those careers are open to them.

I want entrepreneurs and investors from around the world to know that they can start up, grow and thrive in a business-friendly environment where academic excellence is at their fingertips.

And I want all of us in the Sheffield City Region to benefit from the investment and opportunities our Global Innovation Corridor will bring.

The vision is clear. Let’s make it happen.