West Midlands and Greater Manchester have led the way by launching the UK’s first ambitious Local Industrial Strategies focusing on future of mobility and clean growth. This is the result of engaging a range of stakeholders including the CBI and its members.
This is a welcome development as the CBI encourages local areas to make the most of their distinctive strengths, better coordinate economic policy at the local level and ensure greater collaboration across boundaries. This is all part of the CBI's campaign to address regional disparities and add £200 billion to the economy over 10 years.
Specifically, we’ve been encouraging places to focus on the key drivers of regional productivity identified in Unlocking regional growth: skills, infrastructure, business environment and the ability to export and innovate.
We first called for local strategies in our submission to the government’s Industrial Strategy green paper, and we’re pleased by the launch of strategies setting out a strong vision for regions across the UK. Local Industrial Strategies are intended to be long-term plans aiming to increase productivity and deliver inclusive growth that benefits all communities. Each place has been challenged to consider their strengths and weaknesses to be agreed with central government by early next year.
Business, working with partners, should seize the opportunity to come forward with ideas and advice on how future strategies are developed, as well as ensuring these visions become reality. Over the past year, the CBI has sought member views during roundtables and consultations to inform the work being undertaken by combined authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).
West Midlands set up to lead the way on the future of mobility
The future of moving people and goods requires investment in transport infrastructure, connectivity and technology. Putting the future of mobility at the heart of England’s first industrial strategy, the West Midlands Combined Authority has committed to pioneering projects supported by government, including a 50-mile road network for real-world testing, the future UK Battery Industrialisation Centre and the UK’s first large-scale 5G testbed.
The strategy provides a framework for local leaders and business to work collaboratively, building on the region’s distinctive strengths, whilst unblocking the barriers to productivity and growth. There’s a strong focus on the West Midlands’ automotive and manufacturing heritage that looks to the future challenges and opportunities around mobility, intelligent automation and robotics.
The strategy also recognises the need to improve skills provision through maximising apprenticeships, the development of T levels and retraining those in the labour market, whilst also acknowledging the essential role that business has in shaping this provision.
Clean growth at the heart of the Greater Manchester Local Industrial Strategy
The Greater Manchester strategy focuses on a range of core strengths for the region, aiming to boost productivity and put it on the front foot when it comes to tackling the big challenges of tomorrow. For instance, it includes an ambitious net-zero target of 2038. This gives local businesses clarity on the direction of travel and makes a compelling case for sustained investment in clean growth in the region, as well as attracting government funding for strategic projects in the area.
This strategy allows the region to develop a series of long-term evidence-based priorities on driving productivity – contributing to higher wages and prosperity in the region. The strategy also goes on to inform national policy making to help unlock regional growth and tackle inter and intra-regional disparities. Identified strengths within the strategy include health care and innovation; advanced manufacturing; digital, creative and media; and clean growth.
By securing support of both central and local governments, the strategies have the necessary buy-in to become reality if areas continue to receive support and minds remain focused.
It’s key that lessons are quickly learned from the West Midlands and Greater Manchester to develop best practice to support other areas still developing their own strategies. The CBI is already feeding in our experience to government departments behind these initiatives and making the case that continued resource is required to achieve success.
The CBI’s regional policy team are continuing to engage members so that we clearly communicate regional business priorities to combined authorities and LEPs in the months ahead.