A quick horizon scan and it is clear what Hertfordshire LEP’s core priority must be for 2019: the development of a Local Industrial Strategy, which makes a sound business case for further investment in Hertfordshire.

An ‘industrial strategy’ may not seem an obvious fit for business, conjuring up images of smokestack industries more redolent of a bygone age than modern-day Britain. But just as the Industrial Revolution marked a major turning point in history with the birth of our consumer society, we are at a turning point again now with the opportunity to influence almost every aspect of daily life.

The move in the 18th century from man to machine processes ushered in great economic opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation and significant challenges too: urbanisation, unprecedented population growth and poor labour conditions. Today we are on the cusp of a fourth Industrial Revolution: emerging technological breakthroughs in AI, Big Data and the Internet of Things that have the capacity to both disrupt and transform our world.

In its November 2017 White Paper, Industrial Strategy: Fit for the Future, the Government set out a long term plan for how we are to boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the UK. It focused on five foundations of productivity: Ideas, People, Infrastructure, Business Environment and Places. It also set out Grand Challenges to put the UK at the forefront of the industries of the future. These are: Artificial Intelligence and Data Driven Economy, Clean Growth, Future of Mobility and our Ageing Society.

The White Paper also recognised the leading role that Local Enterprise Partnerships have in shaping and delivering locally led economic growth, tasking them with developing Local Industrial Strategies. In doing so, Local Enterprise Partnerships must map out specific opportunities and challenges for their areas. They must align these ambitions with productivity foundations and the Grand Challenges and work in partnership with public stakeholders and businesses.

The aim is to identify the specific investments and actions the public sector – including central and local government and Local Enterprise Partnerships – in collaboration with business should take to drive productivity in their part of the UK and enable those industrial sectors where we have real specialisms, to grow and compete.

The challenge is to ensure that we do not become bogged down in the process, but remain receptive to new ways of thinking from different corners of society and are agile in our approach.

In Hertfordshire, we see this as an opportunity to be bold in our response. We have consulted widely with leading experts and economists both on the state of the economy in Hertfordshire and the impact of wider UK and global economic, socio-political and technological trends. We presented some of these findings at our sold out State of the Economy conference in November when Paul Clarke, Chief Technology Officer at Ocado, set out his ‘grand vision for what a smart UK might look like’.

Over the coming weeks and months, we want to open up the conversation so that we can hear the views of businesses on the key factors affecting productivity and performance; of our numerous research and academic institutions and those working across the public, not-for-profit and social sectors on how collectively we can build a Hertfordshire that is fit for the future.

As we gather evidence from as wide a range of stakeholders as possible, we will continue to engage on a wider footprint to understand what role Hertfordshire can play in positively contributing to the East of England and UK economy. We look forward to working in partnership with our neighbouring LEPs and sharing best practice and progress along the way.

We have just one year to get this right and we urge you to get involved and ensure that together we seek from Government the best deal possible for Hertfordshire.

Keep up to date with our progress.

Lucy Gravatt
Head of Communications, Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership