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Richard Caborn: use Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park as a model for post-pandemic recovery

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Former sports minister Richard Caborn has called on the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park to be used as a model for steering the country’s post-pandemic economic and healthcare recovery.

The park, on the site of the old Don Valley Stadium, opened in phase one in 2016. The focus of the park project is to harness health and wellbeing research, innovation and applied technology in order to drive the development of "transformational economic growth" and whole population health gains.

Covering more than 1 million sq ft of real estate when complete, the park is a cluster of life sciences assets – including research centres, business incubators, offices and laboratories – for collaborative research and innovation in health and wellbeing. It has already proved a catalyst for investment and regeneration and has become an integral part of the larger Strategic Economic Plan for the city of Sheffield.

Caborn believes the model used for the park could be used to draw up a roadmap for the UK's post-COVID-19 recovery.

“Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park is in effect a living laboratory which can be used to help the country through the post-pandemic crisis,” Caborn said.

“It is among the pioneers of an economic and health revolution – which is so needed right now – and translates ideas and innovation into industrialisation and commercialisation.

“The park is already attracting national and international governmental interest and I firmly believe our model should be used to shape our post-COVID-19 future.”

One of the park's flagship institutions is 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 2020, looks to bring together expertise from researchers and innovators across multiple academic disciplines. 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 which, 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.

James Muir, Sheffield City Region chair, echoes Caborn's views and believes the rest of the UK could follow Sheffield's lead: “The 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 transferrable technology to create a home-based engine of economic growth as we move into an uncertain post-Covid world."

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Former sports minister Richard Caborn has called on the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park to be used as a model for steering the country’s post-pandemic economic and healthcare recovery.
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