Adrian Hawkins OBE: leadership in profile

18 Apr 23

Adrian Hawkins OBE has officially taken over the helm of Hertfordshire LEP taking on full responsibility for its ambitious growth agenda.

Adrian sets out what he sees as the big opportunities for Hertfordshire and what he hopes to achieve during his first term in office.


Why did you want to take on the role of Chair, Hertfordshire LEP?

I have seen at first hand the work of Hertfordshire LEP and how it knits together all aspects of the local economy. I was a LEP Board Member from 2014 becoming Deputy Chair from 2017-2020, serving a full six-year term. As Chairman of the LEP’s Skills and Employment Board, I am passionate about increasing opportunities and widening access to all and I want to ensure that people remain at the heart of what the LEP does.

In my role as Chair, Stevenage Development Board, we secured £37.5m to help lead its £1bn transformation programme. I am enormously proud of what we have achieved there, not least as I grew up in a council house and built up my welding business in the New Town.

As someone who has been in business for over 40 years, I am 100% committed to the LEP’s business-first agenda. So, when the opportunity arose to apply to take on the Chairmanship, I felt I had really strong track record to lead the LEP to achieve more. When I applied for this role I set out my mission to inspire, ignite and innovate – and I have plenty more in the tank to deliver on that!


Your predecessor Mark Bretton left a legacy of success with legions of examples of growth across the county, from setting up Herts IQ Enterprise Zone to encouraging more young people into STEM and investing in our key sectors. What do you see as being the big ticket items for Hertfordshire?

I want to see an acceleration of that progress by co-partnering with Government and local partners across digital technology, life sciences, clean energy, creative industries, and innovation. This is at the heart of the Government’s growth plan and we are uniquely placed to deliver that.

We have already seen the impact that the clustering of life sciences has had on the transformation of Stevenage and the UK economy. I see a real opportunity for further clustering of our world-class sectors of excellence, such as space-related R&D and communications, which, in turn, can act as catalyst convertors for growth and future innovation. That model of collaboration is in the LEP’s DNA by convening stakeholders to make things happen.

At the same time we need to ensure that even those living in the most deprived wards are able to find out about local opportunities available in these high-value industries. With employers committed to CSR, we can help connect them to their local talent pool in a sustainable model that truly gives back to communities while reducing the overall carbon footprint. That is why our biggest priority is to develop a new economic strategy for Hertfordshire over the next 10 years that takes a more holistic approach to growth so that no person or place is left behind.


What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the county over the next few years?

The cost of living continues to bite and business confidence remains low. Wage inflation and a tight labour market is impacting staff retention and recruitment – the availability of non-management skills impacting sectors such as hospitality, healthcare and construction continues to be the most widespread growing challenge. Staff turnover has eased but remains an elevated problem. Salaries are rising at a near-record rate, with a further increase planned for the year ahead.  However while these are short to medium term pains, the long view must be on addressing climate change and carbon emissions.

Environmental sustainability and the low carbon challenge are no longer optional – they are integral to the future of the Hertfordshire economy and the welfare of our residents and businesses and we have a real duty to respond.

Like the majority of business people, I am a glass half full person  - so for every challenge I see an opportunity! Retrofit is one of the areas I believe Hertfordshire could become a real trail blazer. In addition to the environmental and health benefits of decarbonising our homes there is a real opportunity to create thousands of jobs both in terms of upskilling in new retrofit technologies and processes and encouraging more young people and adults to train or retrain in green retrofit technologies. I would like us to be at the vanguard of a green revolution in Herts!


The Chancellor announced in his recent Budget that it ‘intends for the functions of Local Enterprise Partnerships to be delivered by local government in the future and that the government is minded to withdraw central government support for LEPs from April 2024’. What does this mean for Hertfordshire?

We are well placed to transition to these new arrangements set out in the Budget and see ourselves as front-runners for future integration. Over the past year, we have planned ahead and evolved our business model and service offer to focus on key sectors and inward investment; skills and employment and business support – while continuing to lead on the economic strategy for Hertfordshire that has sustainable and inclusive growth at its core. This work will continue and I am really excited to take this forward.


What are your priorities for your first year in office?

Inspire, ignite, innovate! By that I mean that we need to ensure that we continue to create opportunities for everyone and the right conditions for business growth, both in terms of our high value sectors and encouraging enterprise. It’s about innovation and being a catalytic convertor, translating ideas and R&D into real tangible outcomes for the future of our people, places and planet. The mechanism for this is our economic strategy which will be developed in tandem with health and place leaders, academia, charities and business.

I want to see a more business- first approach – enterprise is the engine of growth and thanks to the strength of our private sector partnerships we can ensure that the business voice continues to be heard in Whitehall and informs future decision-making.

The LEP has expanded its business outreach service with a dedicated team of skills experts, sector leads and a new inward investment service. A Hertfordshire film office is also being set up which will provide a co-ordinated countywide film location service and capitalise on the growth of the creative sector. I am really excited to see this unfold.

Our skills portal,, connects residents to job, training and apprenticeship opportunities on their doorstep and employers to local talent. Thousands of students have benefited from its free programme of online and in-person events, resources and information. Over the next year we are expanding its successful Generation brand of careers fair into more areas and sectors.


How will the LEP help to create a more inclusive and resilient economy for everyone?

We are creating a circular economy and increasing financial resilience to support our local communities. By this I mean that by striving to diversify the workforce we can improve labour flows and skills supply, thereby improving local living standards and earnings. This, in turn, drives up the quality of health and well-being for residents. Similarly, in pursuing a low carbon economic strategy, this has positive impacts on health, increasing greater labour market participation. Larger corporates have a big role to play here by taking the lead on low carbon transition. Innovation too creates low carbon solutions and economic growth. This, in turn, generates revenue for green public infrastructure.

Our bold and ambitious inclusive growth strategy therefore supports high quality, healthy places that are properly connected and digitally enabled, providing everyone with the opportunity to prosper. An example of this is the creative sector. Hertfordshire has a great heritage of film and TV production so we know that there are people with the skills to do this work today, and the ability to train the next generation of camera operators, special effects designers, costume makers and make-up artists. A lot of these are transferable skills so it is making sure that we have a delivery pipeline of skills in order that the local population can benefit from the considerable investment in this sector.

Another example is in life sciences. We are working to make sure that local people have access to these high-value jobs, with facilities such as the Stevenage Innovation and Technology Centre (SITEC) being funded and supported by LEP investment. The first phase of this is now open at North Hertfordshire College, providing courses in science, digital skills, and healthcare. By implementing a 3D Virtual reality learning environment, more students than ever can explore future careers at the very cutting edge of technologies and science. Now that’s what I call progress!


How do you relax?

I have been able to enjoy a life of international travel in building my business and have found that there is great pleasure to be derived by remaining and relaxing locally, supporting many other businesses with knowledge acquired the hard way in developing a very successful business and just helping others to succeed in the way that I have over the years. My wife and I have both received RYA training to support our love of the sea and sailing and boating and more recently we have been very fortunate to have received the gift of three grandchildren who make our very existence even more worthwhile.

Our biggest priority is to develop a new economic strategy for Hertfordshire over the next 10 years that takes a more holistic approach to growth so that no person or place is left behind.
Adrian Hawkins OBE Adrian Hawkins OBEChair, Hertfordshire LEP
Our biggest priority is to develop a new economic strategy for Hertfordshire over the next 10 years that takes a more holistic approach to growth so that no person or place is left behind.
Adrian Hawkins OBE Adrian Hawkins OBEChair, Hertfordshire LEP