Leader Views


Posted on:
25th August, 2020

Five Point Plan for economic evolution

Mark Bretton is Chair of the LEP Network and Chair of Hertfordshire LEP. Here, Mark sets out the rationale behind the LEP Network '5 Point Plan for recovery' in a piece that originally appeared in the MJ.

Five Point Plan for economic evolution

"Among all the historic milestones we’ve witnessed recently, was a figure released in August showing that UK coal use is at its lowest level for 250 years. That puts us at 1769 levels, just before the Industrial Revolution ignited. Such profound changes are shaping the way we will live and work in the future.

Yet amid such milestones, we see amazing innovation, creativity and adaptability: planes that will fly us to New York in two hours; a LEGO robot automatically dispensing sanitiser to help lower infection rates; a start-up that’s built a virus killing cleaning robot; and ‘Starship’ robots delivering food in urban areas. Ingenuity and creativity drive us forward.

It's that spirit of ingenuity, adaption and creativity that’s routed in our ‘5 Point Plan’ and drives local recovery - building on our local expertise and relationships to adapt to the future, and identifying the strengths and opportunities that will build our local economies.

It’s a plan that focuses on LEP evidence based economic recovery plans, skills needs, low carbon innovation, and targeted stimuli to boost new technology hubs that can help get regional economies back on the route to recovery whilst remaining accountable to our local communities.  

In partnership with business, local authorities, HE, FE, and the third sector, LEPs are exploiting their evidence bases and market data to forge local economic recovery plans that add real value. Evidence bases built up over years with real time economic and market intelligence that are the basis of a ground up recovery.

However, ideas need backing and fertile environments to enable them to grow. Enterprise Zones are proven springboards that can exploit innovation and technology, acting as drivers, promoting the formation of innovative clusters, R&D, and other sectors that stimulate regional recovery. Evidence demonstrates they are a significant catalyst of private sector investment, pulling in an estimated £7bn to the regions.  Standout examples include: Offshore Energy at the Great Yarmouth EZ – a centre  of  excellence  on  the  East’s  all-energy coastline;  the  Space  to  Innovate  EZ  in 10 sites across Norfolk and Suffolk – helping to create 18,500 jobs over the next 25 years; and Ceramic Valley EZ, Stoke-on-Trent – winning  2019 Regeneration Project of the Year.

Investment in more catalysts and catapults can also stimulate early recovery and providing the capital equipment in these facilities removes barriers to entry for small firms, giving them faster growth and a better survival trajectory. The Stevenage Cell and Gene Therapy Cluster which is developing cancer cures of global significance is one great example.

With the government targeting a net zero carbon balance by 2050, green innovation features firmly in our plan. LEPs are already driving local action to achieve net zero emissions – collaborating on responses to future energy challenges, working with industry, creating new battery technology centres, and working towards the gigafactories of the future. 

However, none of this can happen without the right investment in skills. LEPs are having major successes with Local Digital Skills Partnerships, and LEP Skills Advisory Panels bringing together key partners to identify and solve skills needs. But we need to see more rapid progress on the National Retraining Scheme and innovative use of the Apprenticeship Levy and Adult Skills Fund as tools to aid recovery interventions, together with specific action on the skills required in low-carbon industries and modern methods of construction.

Two other milestones will have a bearing on all this. The CSR this autumn, and the White Paper on devolution and economic recovery. As business led LEPs, we do what needs to be done, and we adapt to environments at rapid pace. Whatever political structures are in place, an empowered business voice with a vote at the table must be at the centre of local economic decision making to ensure that the views of the local business community are heard loud and clear and that the decisions made are relevant, transparent and publicly accountable.     

1769 was the prelude to one the biggest economic and social upheavals of the time – it was also the year James Watt patented the first coal powered steam engine. The milestones of this pandemic will similarly shape our future – either by accelerating changes that were already underway or forcing some that were not. Yet, the opportunity to substantially change the way we live, work, and travel in the UK for the better has never been greater – and that’s what drives our ‘5 Point Plan’

Breaking news


All News


All Events