Nick Hill

Powerhouse 2050: New report sets out plan to address productivity gap and create 850,000 jobs in the North

A new report has set out details of how the North of England can tackle productivity gap and create an extra 850,000 jobs.

Powering Leeds with hydrogen, investing over £1bn in portable nuclear reactors and leading the way on the Internet of Things, are just three ways the North can become £100bn more productive, according to the ‘Powerhouse 2050: The North’s Routemap for Productivity’.

‘Powerhouse 2050: The North’s Routemap for Productivity’ sets out fully costed, evidence-based proposals for four sectors where the North could, with government funding and business support, rival the best countries and regions in the world.

Months of research, workshops and engagement with more than 500 businesses, universities and interest groups by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership (NPP), revealed that the actions needed to be taken to make the North’s prime capabilities – Advanced Manufacturing & Materials, Energy, Digital and Health Innovation – world-class.

These include:

  • £2bn investment to replace the entire gas network of Leeds with hydrogen, produced in the Tees Valley, which would contribute to the UK’s 2050 and Paris Agreement commitments on reducing carbon emissions.

  • A further £60m needs to be allocated for the North to be the first region in the UK to commit fully to Industrial Digitisation – how UK manufacturing can increase its use of digital technology, such as the Internet of Things, and automation to become more productive and competitive.

  • £100m to reinforce the North as the UK leader in health data by investing in Connected Health Cities harnessing patient data to diagnose, treat and deliver services more effectively and efficiently across the region, as well as further improving clinical trials.

  • £1bn to creating a new Northern industry in small nuclear reactors, capable of being manufactured at a plant and brought to a site to be built and allowing for better nuclear material security.

Although the report emphasises the importance of government funding, much of it as part of the Industrial Strategy Fund, it also becomes clear that there is a requirement for businesses to invest and support these and many other initiatives.

This support is already happening; with one bank committing £2.2bn to lend to SMEs in 2017 alone. The workshops across the North were also led by senior leaders from some of the North’s biggest employers, listening to views from a wide range of organisations.

Professor Juergen Maier, who led the Advanced Manufacturing & Materials research, said: “This Northern Powerhouse Partnership report sets out bold and original initiatives that could, with appropriate levels of funding and support, have a transformational effect on the North of England and provide a vital boost to productivity.

“The digital reindustrialisation of the North of England is an essential part of our economic future to ensure that UK growth benefits the country as a whole.

“As digitalisation becomes central to our society and the future of manufacturing, the UK needs to invest in automation, innovation and science to give our UK industries the boost they need to be globally competitive.”

Andy Koss, CEO of Drax Power, who led the Energy engagement, commented: “The North is uniquely placed to deliver the UK’s energy needs. There are huge opportunities for us as a region – not just in terms of potential jobs and the economic benefits, but also the positive environmental impacts associated with decarbonisation.”

Stephen Church, a partner at EY, who led the digital theme, added: “Enhanced connectivity, such as fibre to the premises broadband or 5G roll-out, and better support for startups would be major advances in how we embrace the digital age, but equally important is creating incubators and co-working spaces to suit the needs of a modern workforce.”

Leading the Health Innovation theme was Dr Hakim Yadi, the chief executive of the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA). He said: “Health Innovation is key to the economic success and development of the North of England.

“The North’s health innovation economy has a huge opportunity in this area to deliver, health and wealth benefits to the region, both through the new Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and the Northern Powerhouse agenda.”

The proposals in the report have been submitted to the government for consideration in the Autumn Budget on September 22nd.

‘Powerhouse 2050: the North’s Routemap for Productivity’ will be formally launched Friday September 29th at Veka in Burnley to an audience of Northern businesses, apprentices and civic leaders.

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