Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership has kick-started a Hertfordshire wide conversation to support the development of a Local Industrial Strategy.
Businesses, academia, not for profit and public sector organisations contributed to discussions on emerging priorities to grow the economy, drive up productivity and embrace new technologies to support innovation.
The conversation was kick-started at its sold out State of the Economy event on 30th November. The event at the Fielder Centre, Hatfield, attracted considerable Government interest with places reserved for officials from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Cabinet Office, and the Local Industrial Strategy Team - Cities and Local Growth Unit.
This month is the first anniversary since the publication of the Government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper which set out a long-term plan to boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the UK.
Beatrice Andrews, Assistant Director, Local Industrial Strategy team, Cities and Local Growth Unit talked about how Local Industrial Strategies, developed closely with government, will enable a long-term vision for boosting local economies.
Major local employers Ocado, MBDA, Willmott Dixon and Affinity Water and key sector industries were represented, together with public sector leaders across education, local government and the social sector.
Business & Industry Minister Richard Harrington said: “Through the development of a Local Industrial Strategy, Hertfordshire is building on its strong history of innovation to unlock the region’s full potential to create new jobs and opportunities. Spearheaded by the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership, businesses, academia, and public sector partners across the county will be able to share their expertise to boost productivity and the local economy.”
During the conference, delegates heard how Hertfordshire could become a testbed for UK innovation. Guest speaker Paul Clarke, Chief Technology Officer, for Ocado, said: “We need a grand vision for what a smart UK might look like and the infrastructure to support it. Here I believe government has a role to play not in terms of creating that vision but rather convening a diverse group of stakeholders to do that - putting up the Christmas tree for others to decorate, so to speak.
"The same goes, albeit at a smaller scale, for the future of a smart and prosperous Hertfordshire. We need a vision for what that might look like, and how we might be a demonstrator and incubator for elements of the bigger UK wide vision.”
Professor Damian Ward, Dean of Hertfordshire Business School and Professor of Business Economics at the University of Hertfordshire, then set out the major drivers in the global and UK economy that could affect Hertfordshire’s productivity. Christine Doel, Director, SQW, then summarised the latest economic evidence, with a focus on its comparative strengths and weaknesses.
The second part of the conference focussed on the key opportunities that have been identified for Hertfordshire which are likely to become part of its Local Industrial Strategy.
Former LEP chair John Gourd heads up Hertfordshire’s Local Industrial Strategy Commission. He said: “At our Annual Conference in March, we set out the roadmap towards a Local Industrial Strategy. Since then the Government has altered the timescales with all Local Industrial Strategies set to be agreed by 2020. During the past six months, we have amassed the economic evidence base. Now the next stage will be to engage fully with businesses, public sector organisations and other key stakeholders to ensure that the priorities that we have identified are the right ones to take forward.”
In its recently published policy prospectus, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) set out its principles for a well designed Local Industrial Strategy which should help areas make the best use of their distinctive strengths, help co-ordinate policy and must be led by those who best know the need of local economies.
As part of this widespread engagement process, Hertfordshire LEP and the University of Hertfordshire will be carrying out a comprehensive Hertfordshire Business Productivity Survey to understand the drivers behind high and low productivity businesses. Interim findings will be reported in March with the final report to be fed into the strategy development next summer.
A series of business breakfasts and roundtable discussions will take place across Hertfordshire from January to March 2019. These will be a ‘deep dive’ into some of the emerging opportunities that are expected to feature in the Local Industrial Strategy. Running alongside these will be a public facing campaign to raise awareness of Hertfordshire’s key strengths to ensure the county gets its fair share of Government funding post Brexit.
Hertfordshire LEP Chair Mark Bretton said: “This event marks the start of a conversation with everyone who has a stake in Hertfordshire’s future to understand how we can drive up productivity and prosperity for generations to come. This is a huge opportunity to influence the shape of the future local economy and we urge you to get involved in the process.”
Learn more about Hertfordshire's Local Industrial Strategy development.