Innovation is at the heart of vision for South East Midlands economy

Jul 23, 2019

MILTON KEYNES, UNITED KINGDOM – JUNE 03: General view of the Red Bull Racing simulator building at the team factory in Milton Keynes after the Turkish Grand Prix on 3 June, 2010 in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom. (Photo by Getty Images for Red Bull)

A NEW ECONOMIC blueprint for the South East Midlands reveals a bold strategy to build on its existing strengths in transport innovations and new plans to make the area a centre of investing and implementing new technology.

The South East Midlands Local Industrial Strategy sets out ambitious plans to make the area the ‘Connected Core’ of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, linking innovators and markets across the area as well as into London.

A key focus is to harness the huge local potential to develop innovative technology locally and transform the best ideas into high-growth businesses, creating new jobs and opportunities in the area. 

This will build on the existing research and development strengths of the area, including ground-breaking work on automotive design, connected and autonomous vehicles, and the future of freight transport.

Developed in collaboration with leaders, including the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership, local authorities, businesses, and government, the Local Industrial Strategy sets out how the area will deliver the national Industrial Strategy’s aim to raise productivity levels and to create high-quality, well paid jobs.

SEMLEP chair Peter Horrocks said: “Everyone should feel proud of the achievements of the businesses in the South East Midlands and the people who work in them. This area is home to some brilliant people with brilliant ideas that, together, have created the innovation that is already shaping how we will live and work in the future.”

SEMLEP chair Peter Horrocks.

The LIS aims to create more good-quality jobs and to enhance the local environment, he added. 

The strategy launch coincides with the launch of three other Local Industrial Strategies across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc area.

Business Minister Lord Henley met representatives from across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc to discuss how the strategies will help to deliver the government’s national Industrial Strategy ambitions.

He also visited Red Bull Racing for a tour of the company’s headquarters in Tilbrook to find out how it is driving innovation and boosting productivity in the area.

Lord Henley said: “Local Industrial Strategies are about celebrating the unique strengths of places across the country so it was great to meet business leaders from across the South East Midlands area to understand how they are going to put this new, government-backed economic plan into action.

“Our modern Industrial Strategy aims to raise productivity levels and to create high-quality, well paid jobs, and this Local Industrial Strategy outlines how we will do that for people in the South East Midlands.”

The area’s historic links with Formula 1 racing mean there are now over 4,000 high tech and innovation companies within an hour’s radius of Silverstone, and the area is home to major transport innovators, including the Silverstone Technology Cluster and Millbrook Proving Ground’s vehicle and battery testing facilities in Central Bedfordshire.

The South East Midlands also is at the forefront of the Future of Flight programme, part of the Aerospace Sector Deal agreed with the government last winter, which aims to make the UK a leader of hybrid-electric and electric propulsion, and to exploit related new markets such as drones and Urban Air Mobility vehicles.

Commitments in the South East Midlands Local Industrial Strategy include:

  • To become the ‘Connected Core’ of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc: the place with the space, and connectedness between key innovators and markets, to enable ideas and inventions to be tested, enhanced, commercialised and spun out into high growth ventures
  • To lead the way on the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge, through continued investment in the area’s aerospace and advanced engineering excellence, and by pioneering the use of innovative freight technologies and demand-responsive transport
  • To put employers at the heart of innovative skills provision and to become the Oxford-Cambridge Arc’s core provider of digital skills, attracting and training the next generation to lead the global digital revolution
  • To improve productivity and sustainability in tandem, fuelled by renewable energy, smart and connected transport solutions, and greener vehicles, buildings and design principles
  • To provide an exemplary business environment, with high-quality commercial premises and support for incubator, scale-up, innovation, trade and investment activity within the Arc

SEMLEP director and its energy champion Dr Kerry Mashford said: “The SEMLEP area’s Local Industrial Strategy puts clean growth front and centre. With the pace of economic growth we are forecast to achieve, it is right that we prioritise this. This area will shape the concepts behind ‘future settlements’ and lead growth by design.”

Lord Henley’s visit was hosted by Cranfield University. Its chief executive and vice-chancellor Sir Peter Gregson said: “There is strong support for the work of the Local Enterprise Partnerships, from business, from local government and from all the Arc Universities. Together, we have a duty to deliver on these ambitious proposals and create an environment where technological innovation flourishes and businesses thrive.”

The Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Local Industrial Strategies have also been published, demonstrating the economic strength of the Oxfordshire-Cambridge Arc area collectively.

Through these strategies, local partners will work together to harness the collective strength of the Oxford-Cambridge Arc’s research base to drive greater collaboration on science and research, bring employers and providers together to understand and meet skills needs and develop improved support for business across the Arc as a whole.

The government’s modern Industrial Strategy is the flagship economic policy which backs businesses to create high-quality, well-paid jobs throughout the United Kingdom, and invests in skills, innovation and infrastructure. 

Silverstone Park.

Silverstone has key role in plans to boost tech sector with improved links between firms and with education

THE LIS for Buckinghamshire aims to grow the area’s creative, space, advanced manufacturing and digital health capability on the world stage.

More than 100 organisations, including the leaders of the county’s local authorities, have worked together to develop the Buckinghamshire Local Industrial Strategy in collaboration with the government.                      

Central to its plans is Silverstone Park and its technology cluster, which is considered key in order to stimulate high tech cross-overs, supporting emerging technologies through improving links between firms, improving links between businesses and universities and improving networking across the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. 

The plans also include: 

  • A long-term investment plan for Westcott Space Cluster to develop new research and development facilities and a base manufacturing excellence in space propulsion and in-orbit maintenance, and to address skills shortages for technicians and propulsion test specialists 
  • a new Screen Industries Global Growth Hub at Pinewood Studios to provide support to creative businesses 
  • Digital health, med-tech and advanced artificial intelligence, building on assets including Stoke Mandeville Spinal Centre, Buckinghamshire Life Sciences Innovation Centre.

Andrew M. Smith, chair of Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said:

“We have embraced the opportunity to work with government to deliver one of the first trailblazing Local Industrial Strategies in the country, to help drive the Buckinghamshire economy to further increase innovation, support international trade and improve connectivity to help all businesses deliver their full economic potential.

“Buckinghamshire has many world-leading businesses and business clusters operating at the heart of the Oxford to Cambridge Growth Arc.”

They will be “critical” in delivering the strategy, he added.

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