I wrote this blog post as an article on LinkedIn a few years back, but as the UK is about to drop into a post Covid19 recession I think it is even more relevant now. Although I wasn’t aware of it when I wrote this blog originally the idea is very much in line with the idea of The Civic University. The Idea of The Civic University is that universities should be drivers of innovation in the places that they are based in, which is what I argue below, but with a more digital slant. You might also find this video on the Civic University interesting. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts about the synergy between my ideas and the notion of the Civic University
The original blog started as follows-
Whilst Manchester attempts to reinvent itself as the capital of the North, Sheffield I suggest should take a different path. Instead of looking towards London or to its immediate neighbours, Sheffield I suggest should look more towards the world’s most high tech cities for its future. Cambridge, San Francisco, Seoul and Singapore may all offer lessons it could learn from.
An often overlooked feature of Sheffield is the sheer scale of the city’s universities. During university term times over 10% of the population of the city are students. This is over 60,000 students. No other large UK city has a higher concentration of students or academics. Just one of the city’s universities, Sheffield Hallam has approximately 35,000 students, 4,500 staff and a turnover of over £250 million. As universities across the UK are encouraged to have real world benefit and to demonstrate impact, this gives enormous potential for the city’s universities to become a driver for economic growth.
There has been extensive research into the encomic impact of universities such as https://www.russellgroup.ac.uk/media/5254/economic-impact-of-research.pdf. However locally the impact on Sheffield’s economy has so far been limited. The average income in the city is currently only around £22,000, significantly lower than the UK average.
The low cost of living in Sheffield combined with its low crime rate and proximity to the peak district are however all potentially characteristics of the city that could make it atractive to both students and employers. These combined with the concentration of students in the city may be reasons why In 2014 it was voted the number 1 UK city for a positive student experience. In 2014 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/15/sheffield-university-number-one-student-experience-times-higher-education-survey
The notion of Sheffield’s universities, testing innovation is however not new. Perhaps most firmly entrenched in the advanced manufacturing centre, This is however now just one of many research centres in the city. New centres are emerging, including The Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, The Urban Institute – and The NHS test bed PEPPA –
Whilst the future of Sheffield’s economy of Sheffield could be bright, it has been held back by the image of its industrial past. Many years ago I was serving on the Sheffield Culture Board. This committee discussed in depth the links between the arts, the creative economy and economic growth. This discussion also connected to wider ideas about driving growth by changing the image of the city. During this discussion, an idea that occurred to me is the city needs a vision for what the city will be that connects to what it was. It occurred to me that this vision needs to embrace its developing creative and high tech economy. A tag line for the city entered my mind, ‘From Cutting Edge to Cutting Edge’ I still believe that this phrase could be used as part of a vision for the city that whilst connected to the cutting edge of its steel industry also suggests a future firmly embedded in the global knowledge economy.
Sheffields smart city report could perhaps serve as a starting point for the development of a vision for a cutting edge development strategy for the city. Even though Sheffield is on this path so are many other cities. To become and remain a truly cutting edge city Sheffield would have to compete with other international smart cities such as Barcelona – and Bristol -. With it’s Bristol is Open initiative, Bristol currently appears to be a little ahead of this game. I suggest that this is largely due to the buy in of its city leaders.
To read the rest of the article, go to the original post on LinkedIn by clicking on this link here