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Europe investment is transforming the South Yorkshire economy

By Sylvia Yates, Programme Director, Objective 1 South Yorkshire

Over the last 25 years South Yorkshire’s economy has struggled. The decline
of traditional steel, coal and engineering industries left South Yorkshire with
high unemployment, low profitability in businesses and deprivation in formerly
vibrant communities.

The South Yorkshire GDP fell to less than 75% of the EU average in the mid
1990s triggering a massive EU-backed investment programme designed to
address the fundamental economic weaknesses.

The Objective 1 Programme was launched in July 2000 when a regeneration
strategy devised by local partners was agreed with the European

The EU allocated over £700 million to invest in South Yorkshire with the aim of
restructuring the South Yorkshire economy. The European money draws in a
further £700 million from UK public spending and £400 million from the private

Nearly four years into the programme over 9,500 new jobs have been

A recent independent evaluation said that the Programme is contributing to
transformational change in South Yorkshire.

This strong performance has earned South Yorkshire an additional £33 million
from the European Commission’s Performance Reserve to be spent on locally
agreed priorities. This will mean extra funds for sites and buildings including
works associated with Robin Hood Airport, further resources for e-learning,
and support for research and development and the exploitation of
intellectual property.
Objective 1 is investing over £200 million from Europe to support business and
enterprise. We work closely with key partners in South Yorkshire and use key
intermediaries such as Business Link, the Learning and Skills Council and
Renaissance South Yorkshire to deliver parts of our programme’s activity.
Already hundreds of small and medium sized businesses in South Yorkshire
have benefited from Objective 1 support.

South Yorkshire has adopted a cluster development approach to economic
regeneration. The targeted clusters are advanced manufacturing and
metals, bioscience, creative and digital industries, environmental and energy
technologies, and business, professional and financial services.

The advanced manufacturing and metals cluster builds on South Yorkshire’s
excellence in metalworking and engineering. Significant investments include
the establishment of the National Metals Technology Centre and the
Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) - a collaboration
between Boeing and the University of Sheffield, supported by a host of
leading international firms.

TWI Ltd, the world-leaders in welding and joining materials, has established its
Technology Centre in South Yorkshire with European funding. This will provide
technical support, R&D and introduce leading edge technologies, such as
friction stir welding and laser advanced manufacturing.

The development of each cluster is supported by help to start up businesses;
growth assistance; initiatives to promote innovation, technology and
knowledge transfer; and support for skills and management development.

Other business support includes help to develop international trade and
access to finance through grant, loan and equity investments to help new
and existing businesses through critical stages of growth.
Over £150 million from Europe has been earmarked to support the
development of sites and premises to accommodate business growth. Major
developments promising to bring thousands of jobs are underway across
South Yorkshire with some complete and occupied.

£6.7million of European money is helping to pay for the reclamation of 40
acres alongside the M1. Disused land at Sheffield Business Park will benefit,
including 10 acres of former railway marshalling yards. The site has the
potential to accommodate 3,000 jobs.

“The European grant is essential; without it this development would not
proceed,” said Sheffield Business Park Managing Director Sandy Smith. “The
funding will help us to re-model derelict land currently without power or
drainage into development and employment sites that will help to
regenerate South Yorkshire.”

Skill levels in South Yorkshire are low, educational attainment weak with many
local employers reluctant to invest in workforce development. Objective 1 is
addressing these factors, alongside the Learning and Skills Council, so people
are equipped to grasp opportunities the Programme creates through its
support for business. £20 million in funding is available for local businesses to
train their workforce and raise skill levels. Significant funding for e-learning
and vocational education in all secondary schools means that our young
people are better prepared for the world of work.

Recent figures indicate local GDP is rising. That along with significantly
reduced unemployment means the underlying prospects for South Yorkshire
are improving. Our initial strategy remains valid and the priorities chosen are
still the ones most likely to deliver sustainable economic growth. We have
achieved all targets to date and I am confident that Objective 1, with its
partners, is making real headway in laying the foundations for longer-term
growth as we continue to work to transform the local economy.
(Come and Get it Sylvia and JH.jpg) Sylvia Yates with John Healey MP at the
launch of the Objective 1 funded Come and Get It Campaign to publicise
the £20 million fund for businesses workforce development.

(Friction Stir 2.jpg) Friction stir welding is one of the leading edge technologies
being introduced to South Yorkshire by the TWI Technology Centre.

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