After three years of commuting between Sheffield and Inchinnan, I’m delighted to be here full-time and playing a part in growing both the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland (NMIS) and the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District Scotland (AMIDS) in Renfrewshire.
There are a lot of similarities between this region and northern cities such as Sheffield and Manchester, where I was brought up. All have a proud industrial past: in Sheffield it was steel and cutlery; in Manchester it was heavy engineering and here it was shipbuilding along the Clyde.
Professor Keith Ridgway CBE
In the space of 10 years, Sheffield lost much of the steel industry, the mining industry and all the jobs in the supply chain, so it was particularly poignant that we developed the Advanced Manufacturing Park on the site of the famous Battle of Orgreave miners’ strike.
Being in at the start is the most exciting time. We were able to attract world-renowned companies such as Rolls-Royce, Boeing, and McLaren and creating jobs and opportunities for young people from the area was very rewarding.
I want to see that happen in Renfrewshire.
In decades-gone-by, people lived close to the place they worked, the supply chain was local and skills were highly localised. Over time, we have changed the way we work and have become accustomed to a daily commute, spending one hour at each end of the working day sat in a car. Now, the Coronavirus pandemic and the climate change emergency are making us rethink this.
Working from home and greater digital connectivity will shape our future working environment. At NMIS, there is a real possibility less people will be working at desks, but there will be more workshop and interactive space for people to meet informally. It is important to have this collaborative workspace. It’s surprising how often you need a big empty space to do things in, a space where you can build a prototype, throw ideas together and see what happens.
AMIDS has a fantastic opportunity to really shape the way we work, not only in Renfrewshire, but the rest of Scotland and the UK. It brings skills, research expertise and manufacturing all together in one place, creating an attractive place to work, where people can mix and generate new innovative ideas.
Renfrewshire Council is approaching its development in the right way, starting with Netherton Campus as its nucleus, and with Inchinnan Business Park and Westway, there’s ample space to see that nucleus expand.
Artist impression of Netherton Campus, at the heart of AMIDS
One big thing here that Sheffield doesn’t have, is the global connections afforded to us by an international airport; people can get here from London in an hour and a half and with ease if travelling from further afield.
Having NMIS here is crucial to attracting big-name manufacturers to the district and if you attract a company making ships, planes or trains they will subsequently attract the companies within their respective supply chains.
NMIS will bolster SMEs to ensure they are ready to seize the opportunities that come from working with the big companies. It will upskill the current workforce as well as working with Scotland’s colleges and universities to give young people the skills and experience needed to become the highly-effective workforce of the future. It will also give businesses access to the technical expertise and capabilities they need to de-risk innovation and ultimately grow and become more competitive in a global market place.
We’ll be doing things differently in 20-years-time, new processes, new technologies and new materials will emerge and AMIDS will enable Scotland to be at the forefront of this manufacturing revolution.