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Richard Bell

Theresa May’s Industrial Strategy: Reactions from across the North West

This week saw the unveiling of Building our Industrial Strategy – a Government green paper outlining plans to improve living standards and boost the economy by increasing productivity and driving growth across the country.

The Strategy included allocating substantial funding to the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) of the North, with those here in the North West receiving a combined £327.9m of the £556m total.

We’ve gathered views on the Industrial Strategy, what it means for the North West and its implications for the wider Northern Powerhouse from some of the region’s most vocal business leaders.

Suzanne Benson, Trowers & Hamlins

“The announcement of the additional investment in the Northern Powerhouse and its link to the wider commitment to investing and skills and innovation is a very welcome move as the region looks to anticipate the upcoming effects of Brexit.

“Discussions with the businesses we work alongside repeatedly return to the impact of the overall skills shortage – which is anticipated to worsen following Brexit – and the importance of apprenticeships. By placing additional investment in the area in the context of the Government’s renewed focus on its industrial strategy whilst at the same time promoting the role of Local Enterprise Partnerships, the Government is signalling a stronger intention to back business growth – particularly in some of the newer growth industries.

“Linking this with the current rate of development at Airport City which has been identified as a key factor in both manufacturing and tech development regionally as well as providing a focus for overseas investment, will help to provide a stronger platform for growth.”

Geoff White, RICS North & Midlands

“Today we heard that the Prime Minister is keen to listen to industry. And if the Prime Minister is ready to listen, the construction and property sector is certainly ready to talk. Our industry operates on the front line of the British economy, constantly developing innovative solutions to some of UK plc’s greatest challenges. For the first time in a long time, we have a government who are keen to collaborate with industry.

“But let us not underestimate the scale of the challenge. We are facing our worst construction skills crisis in twenty years and with the possible loss of access to the single market, this will only get worse. The Industrial Strategy’s focus on skills is essential if we are to train the workforce we need to meet our ambitious infrastructure targets.

“And while these are warm words, more detail is needed on whether a sector deal will be available for land, property and construction - an essential if this Government and the forthcoming Housing White Paper are able to solve this country’s housing crisis. Beyond skills, there are shorter term barriers preventing industrial growth in our sector. These range from lack of available land to planning delays. If these are not tackled with urgency, we will no longer be the builders.”

Mitchel White, Left Media

“Having not lived through the original industrial strategy the words probably don’t have the same effect on me as they do on older business owners. Any strategy or plan that puts skill development, infrastructure improvements and growth in the North West economy can only be a good thing.

“I’m sure other business owners will agree with me that sitting in an hour of traffic every morning, getting to work to find a ridiculously high energy bill in your email inbox downloading on your super slow wi-fi can be frustrating. Theresa May’s plan to improve all of these areas would be a huge step in the right direction for Manchester and the whole of the North West.

“Something I’m particularly looking forward to seeing is how she tackles the affordable energy problem. Businesses are often tied into long contracts with energy suppliers. As we’ve seen in China growth usually comes at the cost of the environment so I’ll be keeping an eye on that one for sure.”

Niel Bethell, High Access

“In over a decade in business at High Access, the growth to date has been driven through our own vision and drive. As a Northern business with national reach and taking on the competition in London, it’s refreshing to hear the reiterated support for Northern regions set out today.

“Overall, there is a need for more tax incentives to encourage entrepreneurial people to start and grow businesses. It is a huge risk for these individuals who are powering the economic engine.

“I am pleased to see the funding we called for in up-skilling the workforce. By investing in people teams and businesses will be boosted. In addition, Government support for companies to improve health and wellbeing through reduced cost gym membership would be a win-win for business and would reduce the pressure points felt across public health.”

James Blake, Hello Soda

“This investment in the North West within the government’s industrial strategy will be great news for businesses within the region.

“The government’s commitment to the industrial digitalisation review shows that they recognise the need for digitalisation and ensuring that our industries are well equipped for the future.”

Rob Cotton, NCC Group

“There is much to welcome in today’s announcement regarding the government’s new industrial strategy.

“We have long been a champion of STEM education and skills to help plug the digital skills gap that poses a significant challenge to many forward-thinking companies when it comes to recruitment. The measures announced today are an encouraging addition to the many other initiatives from both the public and private sector.

“As global organisation that is proud of its Manchester roots, it is also encouraging to see a further £556m investment in the Northern Powerhouse and investment into science, research and innovation, building on areas of global excellence. I urge business leaders from across the north to respond to the government’s consultation in order to ensure the strategy is fit for purpose and delivers real benefits to our region.”

Philip Brennan,

“It’s encouraging to hear the Government putting industry at the heart of their planning especially since Theresa May’s confirmation that the UK will be leaving the single market. The focus on the development of skills is crucial as many UK SMEs in the North West can find recruiting staff with the appropriate expertise to be a struggle.

“This now needs to be actioned swiftly and fairly across the region. Access to finance is another major stumbling block for many small businesses, particularly start-ups, across the North West and, whilst it is positive that this is included in the strategy, the key for me now is for the Government to be clear on how businesses can get access and support from them. Small business owners have been repeatedly telling the Government that they need support to access funds to start and grow their businesses.

“This industrial strategy is open to a public consultation and it’s to be hoped that the Government will use this opportunity to really listen to what the SME community need and follow it through to benefit and support businesses in the North West.”

Richard Thomas, DTM Legal

“It’s very good news to see the Northern Powerhouse funding promises finally coming to fruition. £556m is a significant sum and it’s reassuring to see that there is enough money available in the pot to have a solid impact across the North.

“My only hope is that the funding does not separate the regions, but does what the Northern Powerhouse set out to do and boost connectivity across the North. The Local Enterprise Partnerships need to work together to assess the primary requirements and outline the priorities that will ensure a maximum return.

“Businesses need to make the most of this investment and get in quickly if they wish to have a say in how the money is spent. The ability to have input into these decisions is one of the advantages of having business led enterprise partnerships and will help regions ensure that there is a real concentration on value for money and return on investment.”

Andrew Dickman, db symmetry

“Today’s announcement from the Government must be welcomed. UK businesses need a clear strategy in place to ensure that Britain will remain competitive in a post-Brexit environment and it is encouraging to see the Government adopt a proactive approach.

“The Northern Powerhouse is the heart of British industry and it is therefore only fitting that the strategy was launched at May’s first regional cabinet meeting in the North West of England.

“As a national business that is heavily involved in large-scale property development, working with local authorities and businesses across the North, we have a vested interest and will be listening acutely to make sure connectivity, infrastructure, skills and investment are at the top of the agenda.”

Matthew Pochin, Legat Owen

“It is encouraging that £556m has been earmarked for the North West and more specifically £43.3m for Cheshire and Warrington.

“The next step is to understand how quickly this money will be made available and how the schemes that need funding can access it. Legat Owen are working on a number of projects which need assistance to bring them forward and these funds are required imminently to tie in with the momentum which is being built behind them.

“The headline numbers are welcome it is now down to delivery and release.”

Conrad O’Neill, Canning O’Neill

“What any successful economy needs is direction and today’s announcement should at least give businesses in the region some confidence.

“What we need now is: more detailed proposals, particularly on infrastructure; clarity on which industries are going to take the limelight, a better understanding of what skills we need and how we are going to equip our workforce with the right skill set to deliver those goals. Timescales are also crucial to its success.

“We need certainty and support now more than ever.”

Alison Loveday, berg

“Industry is the very essence of our economy and I welcome the government’s new strategy – it’s very timely with ongoing uncertainty around the terms and timing of article 50.

“There have been fears amongst business leaders that the Northern Powerhouse is just rhetoric, however such an investment in the region and in the people should quash those fears and replace them with a real sense of optimism and excitement.

“As a region and a country, if we want to prosper we must make sure that doing business here is attractive across a whole range of criteria, including infrastructure, overall cost, access to a skilled workforce and a generally “business friendly” approach which is efficient and competitive.

“We are already a leader in innovation and creativity and the Prime Minister’s recognition of the importance of ensuring that we are one of the most competitive places in the world to start and grow a business is extremely encouraging.

“Supporting industries of the future has to be a priority and the leaders of tomorrow are therefore of paramount importance; the £170 million decision to overhaul technical education is a great opportunity that our region has to grab with both hands to deliver the change necessary.”

Dr. Daniel Strosnider, Forrest

“We welcome an Industrial Strategy that recognises the need for growth across the North and shows the economic potential of the region. We anticipate the funding will help to ensure the region continues to be a leader in Research & Innovation, Trade/Investment and Infrastructure, with a focus on creating jobs and boosting economic prosperity.

“‘Delivering affordable energy’ has been highlighted as one of the ten ‘pillars’. As interest in battery storage and decentralised energy grows, we hope the strategy fund plays a role in promoting an innovative and prosperous low carbon society. It is important that sustainability and efficiency are at the heart of the strategy, whereby the funding creates long lasting and viable growth, which will continue to improve lives across the region for decades to come.

“It is also important that knowledge, services and funding is dispersed in a way that increases interaction between sectors, for example, science and innovation should assist our understanding of how to deliver affordable energy and innovations in battery storage and decentralised energy could positively promote a low carbon culture that utilises inward investment.

“As leaders in the energy sector we are currently working in a range of different sectors, from the water industry to the education sector, providing thorough analysis and surveys to determine the most suitable energy solutions. We’ve recognised that this is a significant requirement for many of our clients. Offering this high level support, guidance and expertise has driven the success of some of our most significant projects, with confidence that short-term investment into efficient solutions can provide long-term benefits for the future.”

Clive White, Amec Foster Wheeler Clean Energy

“We welcome the inclusion of nuclear as one of the industries identified for sector deals in the Green Paper and we look forward to assisting Lord Hutton in pinpointing how the Government could increase the prospects of success.”

Michael Buckworth, Buckworths

“The North, and Manchester in particular, is now perfectly placed to seize the advantage over the existing steady and tentative momentum to attract and retain investment, talent and new disruptive ways of doing global business.

“It’s just not the jobs and companies we already have operating in the region that will capitalise.

“The truly exciting thing from our point of view, as a law firm specialising in disruptive technology companies, is the companies that don’t even exist yet. I firmly predict there will be a tidal wave of international (and EU originated) venture capital investment in the sector. The Northern Powerhouse is quite simply, the logical business location to be.”

Murray Patt, Alexander Knight & Co

“This is good news for the economy, great news for the region and even better news for entrepreneurs.

“Now is the time for the Government to do everything in its power to ensure that business owners are given the right backing, infrastructure and investment to enable them to compete with the rest of the world.

“The combination of Trump and Brexit means that we have to be bold, daring and seize the opportunity while it is here to create an exciting future for businesses. This new Industrial Strategy announced today is a good starting point and it demonstrates the importance this Government places on the role of business in our country.

“The extra £565m investment in the Northern Powerhouse is a wonderful opportunity for Manchester-based entrepreneurs. Manchester is the capital of the Northern Powerhouse and it stands to reason that our clients, who live, work and employ people in and around the city are excited about this news and keen to learn more about what it might mean for them.”

Asif Hamid, Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership

“The LEP is ready to step up to the challenges outlined in the Industrial Strategy launched today by Government. The move towards a place-based strategy building on sector strengths and harnessing assets echoes the key messages outlined in the Liverpool City Region Growth Strategy.

“City Region partners understand the importance of investing in science, research and innovation, developing skills, investing in infrastructure, supporting business, improving trade and, in particular, harnessing our key sectors and assets to drive economic growth. Our Growth Strategy sets out ambitious ambitions to achieve our vision of a truly global and competitive City Region at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse.

“Business are now being asked to consult on the industrial strategy proposals. As the voice of business we will now ensure Liverpool City Region is at the heart of the Government’s commitment to drive the economy forward.”

Andrew McFarlane, Colliers International

“This financial commitment is further evidence of the ongoing building of momentum behind the Northern Powerhouse as the Government continues to move to rebalance the national economy and more people and organisations begin to understand what the region is all about and how they can play their part in its continued economic and social renaissance.”

Matt Daly, Prowise UK

“I think an incredibly important part of the Industrial Strategy is the smart energy technology and communication element. AI and 5G Mobile Technology development are key for businesses and education bodies to stay connected.

“For us it feeds into our anytime, anywhere learning concept, where students and teachers can be connected at all times. Providing them with a good standard connection gives them flexibility in their learning and teaching.

“Not only do we want the ability to achieve a connection, the development of new technology like robotics, electric vehicles and quantum technology need to integrate into young people’s education and our everyday technology to help them develop important skills for their careers and lives. Achieving this will give the North West an advantage in the future. We already have the skills, we just need the support.”

Paul Shannon, ANS Group

“The fact that infrastructure is one of the 10 key pillars of the government’s industrial strategy is a move that’s welcomed by us and undoubtedly many other businesses within the North West.

“Investment in important infrastructure, full fibre networks and connectivity is crucial for business success and will certainly even up growth across regions in the UK. We hope that this news, combined with the Chancellor’s pledge to improve technology and 5G access in November, will bolster the technology sector across the North West and the UK as a whole.”

Andrew Avanessian, Avecto

“We welcome the proposed investment in skills in the North West announced in the government’s industrial strategy, and hope that we will see a particular emphasis on building digital skills within the region.

“The government’s financial support for local projects will help to build relationships between universities and schools and companies, which will both improve the prospects of young people and drive growth within the region. This is vital if the UK is to fully realise the potential of its areas of excellence on a global stage.”

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