Enterprise Zone Leeds
Once a leader of the Industrial Revolution, the Leeds City Region is now at the heart of innovative, contemporary business
by Frank Simpson
Leeds City Region’s strengths in financial and professional services are well understood. What’s less well known is that it is the UK’s largest manufacturing centre. The latest growth figures from the closely watched Markit/CIPS UK Manufacturing PMI report offer encouraging evidence of the growth of UK manufacturing – and the manufacturing capabilities here are helping to create a fairer, more productive and more successful UK economy.
The Leeds City Region was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. In the 19th century famed Yorkshire industrialist Titus Salt embodied the enterprising zeal of his age, helping lay the foundations of the original Northern Powerhouse.
Salts Mill and the picturesque village of Saltaire are now recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Salt’s success was borne from his willingness to innovate, while understanding the importance of a good quality of life for his workforce. A vision of growth that remains relevant in a 21st century Leeds City Region.
The days of mass industrialisation are gone but the region’s pioneering spirit lives on. Bradford-based entrepreneur Eric Hawthorn aptly chose Salts Mill as the manufacturing base for his telecommunications business, Radio Design. Infrastructure-sharing technologies for mobile network operators made in Saltaire are exported to India and Europe while workshops that once produced wool for the world market are now driving a global telecommunications revolution.
The symbols of the region’s industrial heritage are being repurposed for the 21st century. Holbeck, once the industrial heart of Leeds and now regenerated into a thriving digital and creative hub, is home to craft brewers, Northern Monk. The team there have transformed a derelict former flax mill into a thriving community asset, producing beers which they export to the US, and Europe.
Today, Leeds City Region manufacturing contributes over £7 billion to the UK economy, and is home to twice the national average of advanced manufacturing companies. It is home, for instance, to global businesses that include: Borg Warner, Cummins Turbo Technologies, The Hinduja Group, and Elecon Engineering. The sector employs 142,000 – 11% of jobs in the economy, a figure that has increased by 2,300 in the past five years. Huddersfield engineering firm, Reliance Precision, has even helped land the Rosetta satellite on Comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko in 2014. This is the modern Northern Powerhouse in action.
These achievements are underpinned by a network of well-established academic and research centres of manufacturing excellence. Bringing together knowledge exchange with world-class research and development expertise in higher education and industry helps develop new ideas, new materials and new products and services. Institutions like the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre in Huddersfield, the Bio-renewable Development Centre in York and research at the Universities of Bradford and Leeds show the collaborative and open approach the region takes to the future of manufacturing processes.
The University of Leeds is in the top 100 (Global University Ranking), with an annual research spend approaching £200m. The National Physical Laboratory, the UK’s National Measurement Agency, based its only facility outside London here. The location was specifically chosen for its proximity to a concentration of high value engineering firms who can benefit from the agency’s world-leading research capacities.
The Institute of Railway Research (IRR) at The University of Huddersfield is helping to improve the knowledge of the way that railway vehicles interact with the track – including suspension performance, wheel-rail contact, traction and braking. The region is superbly placed to support technologies required to deliver HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.
With two world-class business schools, nine universities, including the Times University of the Year 2017 University of Leeds, the pipeline is bursting with talent, producing 17,800 STEAM graduates annually.
Fundamental to the continued success of the sector is the region’s ability to maintain and develop a competitive skills base. Boosting productivity across the UK could be addressed partly through growth in skilled manufacturing jobs. To address this, £800,000 was allocated to help 175 SME manufacturers invest in training and skills that will improve these prospects.
Manufacturing is vital in creating future expansion for UK plc – and specifically targeting the diverse opportunities in Leeds City Region. Exciting career routes are essential to attract the next generation to the sector.
Helping to create these opportunities, the Leeds City Region Growth Deal, agreed in 2014, funded £3.1m towards Kirklees College’s Process Manufacturing Centre, matched by £2m that includes donations from local businesses. Opened in 2016, this ground-breaking facility trains apprentices to hone their skills and craft on the latest techniques and cutting-edge industry equipment.
Combining the expertise of industry professionals, together with academic support, will provide the talent Leeds City Region businesses need by equipping young people with the latest skills to enter the workplace. Another welcome initiative is the engineering-focused University Technical College (UTC), opened in 2016 with a capacity to annually train up to 150 engineers of the future.
Industry is playing an ever increasing and crucial role in developing the technical skills of young people. By investing in manufacturing, and the people who drive that enterprise now and in the future, Leeds City Region is staying true to the concept of good growth and fuelling the modern Northern Powerhouse – creating a stronger, more productive and more balanced UK economy.
Fresh prospects at Enterprise Zones
Reflecting the region’s history of creating economic success through reinvention, the sites within the first Leeds City Region Enterprise Zone have been transformed from brown and greenfield land to a thriving area of industry.
Just minutes from Leeds city centre and on the edge of the M1 and M62, the 142ha Zone is now home to world-class businesses including Amazon, John Lewis, FedEx and Perspex Distribution – and it’s experiencing a growing demand for space from major businesses who see benefits such as increased productivity by locating here.
With a second package of Enterprise Zones now live across the M62 corridor, a further nine sites are available. These offer great connectivity and a range of incentives for businesses looking to join the region’s supply chain – or benefit from being located among seven million people within the largest city region outside London and the South East.