It’s an exciting time for manufacturers in Leeds City Region. We are seeing a resurgence of high-value manufacturing, driven by process innovation, new technology and changing customer demand. In areas such as advanced and precision engineering, energy, chemicals, health and agri-tech, food and drink in particular, our core capabilities are driving a new generation of growth and success.
The manufacturing sector in Leeds City Region has a long history and heritage that helps position the region as a UK leader in the sector. And this is no idle boast.
The sector is worth more than £7bn, with double the national average of companies in advanced manufacturing and the UK’s biggest manufacturing employment base. Perhaps this is part of why our area remains one of reinvention, innovation and pioneering mentality.
No more so is the case than at Reliance Precision, the Huddersfield-based company of which I am the managing director.
It was with great sadness that we learned recently of the passing of our founder, Max Selka, at the age of 92. Max was certainly a trail-blazer. Acquiring Reliance Precision back in 1955, he reinvented the company by shifting its focus to the manufacture of specialist, very accurate, small gears, opening up opportunities that have taken us into space on the solar array drive mechanisms of satellites, making robots for health research institutes and into laboratories around the world in highly precise scientific instruments.
What Max brought to Reliance Precision more than 60 years ago was a way of thinking that helped to reinvent a business. Problems are best solved first from principles and with an intense rigour which can lead to new solutions to difficult problems. Ideas generated in this way can create unique selling points, something vital to sustained success in the manufacturing sector.
I am pleased to say that this re-inventive approach is one that has today been adopted by a multitude of dynamic and innovative companies across Leeds City Region. Many of the manufacturing businesses based here are doing truly astounding things. From Radio Design, the developer and manufacturer of products which transform the efficiency of mobile phone networks, to bebionic, part of healthcare specialist Steeper Group that is taking today’s technology and making it available to patients worldwide through the development of a world-leading bionic hand - Leeds City Region is at the forefront of work that has a profound impact on all our lives.
The sector is also flourishing thanks to its network of sub-sector specialisms. Every day my organisation draws on an extensive network of partners including manufacturers, suppliers and customers across the region which support both new product development and production of components for our catalogue and bespoke solutions.
But we are far from unique in this regard. Indeed, as the chair of the Leeds City Region’s Business, Innovation and Growth panel it is heartening to see so many world leading manufacturing businesses based here that are gaining real advantage from this network.
Our regional advantage stretches beyond manufacturers themselves. Leeds City Region has a network of world class academic and research centres of manufacturing excellence, including the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre in Huddersfield, the Bio-Renewable Development Centre in York and the Universities of Bradford, Leeds and York. In addition, we are home to newly established educational centres of excellence such as The University Technical College Leeds, the city's new school for 14 to 19-year olds, focusing on engineering and advanced manufacturing, and the Process Manufacturing Centre in Huddersfield, an employer led training centre for process manufacturing industries. These centres are playing crucial roles in the developing pipeline of talent here in Leeds City Region to feed this sector.
Reliance hires 6 new apprentices every year and the quality of the young people we are able to attract is extremely high. We benefit from the quality of the education and training locally and people here don’t have to be convinced that careers in advanced manufacturing can be exciting and rewarding.
With such a support network of industry leaders already based here, it is the LEP’s firm belief that Leeds City Region is best placed to address the challenges for the future of manufacturing and provides the perfect location for companies looking to grow, innovate and improve efficiency. Compared with the rest of the UK, we have several key advantages: market size, workforce skill and critical mass of local service and supply organisations. We also get to live in some of the most beautiful places too.
Indeed, we have such a strong proposition that when people think of the future of manufacturing, they automatically think Leeds City Region. Long may that continue.
This article features on the business pages of the Yorkshire Post today - 24 January 2017.