Sheffield could become the model to help steer the country’s post-Coronavirus economic and healthcare recovery.
The spotlight is being focused on Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park – where health and wellbeing research, innovation and applied technology is being harnessed to drive the development of transformational economic growth and whole population health gain.
The Park, which will cover over 1 million sq. ft. of real estate when complete, is proving a catalyst for investment and regeneration and an integral part of Sheffield City Region’s Strategic Economic Plan.
It is a model which Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park project lead and former Government Minister Richard Caborn believes could be a testbed for the country’s roadmap to a post-Covid recovery.
“Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park is in effect a living laboratory which can be used to help the country through the post pandemic crisis,” said Mr Caborn. “We are amongst the pioneers of an economic and health revolution so needed right now, translating ideas and innovation into industrialisation and commercialisation.
“We are well ahead of the game and are at the heart of Sheffield’s post pandemic road to recovery. We are already attracting national and international Governmental interest and firmly believe our model should be used to shape our post-Covid future.”
Sheffield has the world’s only Olympic Legacy Park outside a host city. It was set up after the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to deliver whole population improvements in health and wellbeing.
Bringing together expertise from academia, elite sport, the NHS, and public and private sector organisations, Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park is creating a cluster of Life Sciences assets including research centres, business incubators, offices and laboratories for collaborative research and innovation in health and wellbeing.
The Park is home to Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC), a global centre for research and innovation in physical activity. The AWRC is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the population through innovations that help people move.
The purpose-designed Centre, which opened in January, brings together expertise from researchers and innovators across multiple academic disciplines at Sheffield Hallam University. The AWRC is already working in strategic partnerships with national and international private and public sector organisations on applied technology projects.
The AWRC is also home to a growing number of start-up and scale-up businesses who, through a Research England funded Wellbeing Accelerator programme, are being offered a unique, onsite pathway from innovation, through to research and development and then to market.
This is a model which Sheffield City Region LEP chair James Muir believes the rest of the UK should be following: “Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park brings together a unique partnership of organisations with a vested interest in improving physical activity and wellbeing and a commitment to harnessing the power of research and innovation to deliver transformational change.
“As a country we need to be investing much more in research and development and Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park is a brilliant example of how we can remodel transferable technology to create a home-based engine of economic growth as we move into an uncertain post-Covid world.
“The University Technology College on the Park has an employer-led curriculum supported by Sheffield’s two universities and over 70 employer partners – equipping the workforce of the future with clinical and technical skills in Health Sciences, Sport Science, and Computing.
“They are right next to a hot bed of world-renowned researchers working with Governments, national and international organisations as well as a growing army of innovators – a model which fits into our regional strategic economic vision of an Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation District.”
Sheffield has the potential to become a living laboratory for understanding the healthcare implications of coronavirus – both as a model for a more integrated healthcare system but also as a research base for studying the rehabilitation needs of people recovering from Covid-19.
The National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine (NCSEM), that has its research hub based in the AWRC, is implementing whole-system approaches to increasing physical activity across the population. The NCSEM sites support the NHS to deliver 90,000 clinical appointments a year in facilities that make it easier for patients and staff to become physically active and could be a major post-Coronavirus testbed.
Professor Robert Copeland, AWRC & NCSEM Director, said: “For the last decade, people and organisations across Sheffield have been working together to transform the way we think about population health. As a system we are moving towards an innovative and integrated model for the delivery of health care services, placing the person at the centre and making it easier for people to be physically active as part of everyday life.
“The opportunity for transformational change has never been more apparent. We have the opportunity, indeed the necessity to remodel the way we live, work, play and provide health and care services. Sheffield has the right mix of skills, experience, innovation, leadership and vision to be a global leader in population health research. This shift towards a wellbeing centred economy is what will drive growth and improve the health and happiness of residents across our region.”
Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park brings together a unique partnership of public institutions who have a vested interest in improving public health and delivering a better future for all through transformational research, innovation and applied technology.
Other future developments on the Park could also play a part in the recovery programme of the Covid 19 crisis – these include Sheffield Children’s Hospital’s 40,000 sq. ft. Centre for Child Health Technology, which will bring together experts in health, academia and industry to develop cutting edge technologies and advanced healthcare for children, and an Innovation and Enterprise Centre for start-up and scale-up businesses.
Mr Caborn added: “We have a strategy to move forward. We are at the heart of Sheffield’s and the UK’s post pandemic road to recovery. We believe we are ahead of the game. Our model is what the UK needs and has already attracted the interest of government.”