The voice of northern business

The chairs of northern Local Enterprise Partnerships, which aim to foster collaboration between local authorities and the private sector, discuss doing business in the North of England.

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Is the Northern Powerhouse delivering on its mission statement, or is it simply lip service? As part of our recent special report on the initiative, Spotlight spoke to key stakeholders about the challenges and opportunities attached to regional economic growth.

What should the government be doing more of? Spotlight aimed to find out.

Lord Richard Inglewood

Chair of Cumbria LEP and Chair of Gen2, one of the country’s largest training providers

Cumbria is a place where world-leading innovation meets beautiful natural capital. We are home to two World Heritage Sites, the Lake District, part of Hadrian’s Wall, two national parks and globally recognised businesses. Many people are unsure how to get here, but we are at the heart of the UK, with excellent connectivity, and can be in all of the UK’s major cities in less than three hours. Now we are serious about putting Cumbria on the map.

Andrew Hodgson OBE, Chair of the North East LEP and Chair of Avid Technology and Electric Vehicle component developer and manufacturer
One of the challenges North East England faces is our location. For some companies there is a perception the region is difficult to access. But we have excellent road, rail, air and sea links and we are campaigning for improvements to the East Coast Mainline so it’s ready to support HS2 by 2033. Improving transport will boost investment. Our skilled workforce is another area of opportunity. We have expertise across the industries of the future and a pipeline of talent from world-class universities.

Mike Blackburn OBE, Chair of the Manchester LEP and Vice President, Strategy & Planning, Government & Health, BT Global Services
We would like to see more new “greenfield” investment in capital intensive projects in areas like advanced manufacturing and life sciences. This would build on Greater Manchester's science and research assets. The UK has a challenge for more leading cities to gain greater global visibility. Platforms like the Northern Powerhouse can deliver a “lift” to certain areas while giving an element of scale in markets such as China. But city brands like Manchester should be developed and used fully to drive UK growth.

Asif Hamid MBE, Chair of the Liverpool LEP and Chief Executive of The Contact Company
We are fortunate in having a strong, globally recognised brand in Liverpool, but our challenge is that internationally we are known more for our football and music and less for our world-leading capabilities and assets. We excel in renewable energy, materials chemistry, infectious disease expertise and AI. We will be focusing on these strengths to enable our city region to make its mark – not forgetting our skilled workforce. We value the continued partnership across northern boundaries in realising our vision for a thriving Northern Powerhouse.

Steve Fogg, Chair of the Lancashire LEP and Managing Director of Shared Services at BAE Systems
Lancashire is one of the largest economies in the North. A key focus for the LEP is to drive inclusive economic growth and build upon Lancashire's global reputation in the aerospace, advanced manufacturing, and energy sectors, ensuring we can exploit new opportunities. We have already made substantial investments in innovation, which will produce a world-class skills and research base for our industries to compete globally. Our attractiveness to inward investors will be enhanced further through investment in infrastructure and maximising collaboration with Northern Powerhouse partners.

Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the Leeds City Region LEP and the NP11 group of local enterprise partnerships working together for the North
Leeds City Region is a top UK location for private sector investment. As the city region economy that most closely mirrors the UK as a whole, we see interest from all sectors, but as the new home of Channel 4’s national HQ we are experiencing particular growth in the TV production, digital and creative industries. To continue this success, we will be working with government to ensure that our region benefits from investment in transport and infrastructure alongside support to develop skills and innovation in fast-growing industries.

David Kerfoot MBE DL, Chair of the York and North Yorkshire LEP and founder of The Kerfoot Group
York and North Yorkshire has a distinct offer for investors. We are recognised for our leadership in food and Agri-Tech, yet it’s clean and green technologies that are our global growth sectors. We are world leaders in circular bioeconomy innovation, carbon capture potential and renewable energy technologies. The same rolling green hills, North Yorkshire coast and abundance of cultural capital belie an economic powerhouse. We are working with government to deliver opportunity through integrated investment in digital and transport infrastructure and skills.

Lord Haskins, Outgoing Chair of the Humber LEP and crossbench peer
One challenge facing the North of England is decarbonisation – but it is also an economic opportunity.  We have already seen progress in offshore wind development, but we are expecting even more substantial investment with Dogger Bank and Hornsea Three. We have the UK’s highest carbon-emitting industrial cluster, with vitally important industries like steel and chemicals that need to be sustained, and investments in carbon capture and hydrogen key to the future of these industries.

Paul Booth OBE, Chair of Tees Valley LEP and former chair of Sabic UK Petrochemicals
Tees Valley has the opportunity to become the UK’s first decarbonised industrial cluster by 2030. Working in partnership with the Oil and Gas Cluster Initiative to develop our Net Zero Teesside project is key to delivering the North’s ambition to lead the world’s carbon capture and storage technologies. Producing over 50 per cent of the UK’s hydrogen, we are perfectly placed to fulfil UK ambitions. Tees Valley is open for business. Being able to shout about these opportunities with public and private support is critical.

James Muir, Chair of Sheffield City Region LEP and former chief executive at SEAT
We’re committed to creating the conditions to stimulate businesses, exploit our core capabilities and invest in new pathways so businesses invest, locate and innovate here. Investors who have recently moved to the region want access to a skilled workforce. A key part of our plans is ensuring that we have a skills strategy that links the school curriculum to employers’ needs. By putting people at the heart of what we do, we will be a region where investment unlocks social good, improves our environment and drives productivity, with economic growth that benefits everyone.

Christine Gaskell, Chair of Cheshire and Warrington LEP and former member of the board at Bentley Motors Limited
We are home to some of the world’s most recognisable brands, we have the second highest performing economy in England, and established industries spanning life sciences, clean energy and high-value manufacturing. But ensuring the benefits of our location are heard and understood is a key challenge. We have some of the highest qualified people available in the country, but we can’t stand still and have in place a £30m programme addressing ongoing skills development and talent attraction.  Being at the hub of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail will enhance our connectivity further. This is critical in securing business growth. 

To see the full survey results in the Northern Powerhouse policy report click here.

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