The Growth Commissioners, speakers and audience met on 21 January 2016 to discuss the economic strengths and opportunities for the Corridor and the local economies within and surrounding it. This report summarises the proceedings of the event and the views and emerging priorities of the Commissioners themselves. You can also access our short video of the event here.
Reflections on the inquiry event and debate
A number of themes were evident through all of the presentations and debate:
- The corridor has strong links, common activities, assets and capabilities.
- There are important East-West links to the local economies and industrial sectors in the corridor. There is the need to appreciate this, but also to focus on what issues and solutions are most pertinent to the Corridor.
- The economic role of the places in-between Peterborough, Cambridge and London needs to be discussed more fully and developed. There are opportunities for these places to capture growth and economic activities that can’t always be accommodated in London and Cambridge.
- Sustainable growth for all communities is an aspiration that is essential in order to get the leadership and buy-in to enable further employment and housing growth and development.
The Growth Commissioners provided further thoughts and insights into the issues and themes that emerged.
Addressing the transport, infrastructure, housing and skills constraints
If transport, housing and skills supply are not addressed, Cambridge’s growth will be curtailed and the UK will lose new investment in tech firms and jobs to overseas competitors. As some of Cambridge’s major international technology firms cannot secure the skills and talent they need, they are, instead, expanding operations in their other overseas locations. These factors may limit the potential for growth and expansion in high value-added industries in the future.
There is the perception that some parts of the corridor, such as Greater Cambridge, do not have an effective long-term integrated transport strategy or plan. Many of the schemes in the past 10 years have made to address specific issues that have arisen.
The corridor has significant industry clusters and strengths in its own right
There is a significant life science cluster in and surrounding the Corridor in its own right. It is a definite geographical concentration of research, skills, capabilities, assets and businesses. The Corridor’s life sciences capabilities are world leading. Software design and engineering is an activity and capability which underpins much of the IT & Digital and Life Sciences activities, as well as other tech sectors. It is common to have life sciences and ICT & Digital to be strong in the same region. Successful Life Sciences Regions tend to have successful ICT & Digital industries and vice-versa.
The future of Greater London will have a significant effect on the future of the Corridor
The role of London as a whole needs to be considered in relation to the corridor. London has such a large and increasing influence, that it is important to consider trends, issues and developments throughout the Greater London area. On housing alone, London’s needs are vast, and of significance to the Corridor as well as other areas surrounding the capital.
Making the Corridor’s nodes work together better
There was much discussion of the ‘nodes’ within the Corridor, and the roles they play. In particular, it was felt that some of the towns and places that weren’t in Cambridge or London could be better connected, and that a better understanding of their role and potential is warranted.
Exploring new financial tools
There is much awareness of the potential from new financial tools, and that work is being undertaken by many organisations in the Corridor. The Growth Commissioners are aware of this significant potential, and the role that the Growth Commission could have in informing and promoting this agenda.