Chair’s blog – July 2018
With all the recent Brexit excitement in the Commons you’d be forgiven for thinking that our senior politicians don’t have time for regional policy outside the Westminster bubble.
But I’m delighted to report that in recent weeks the LEP has met with a veritable feast of HMG’s finest, including Secretaries of State for business, transport and local government, the Science Minister, Minister without Portfolio, and even the PM herself at the inaugural Council of LEP Chairs at No 10.
And I’m not namedropping for the sake of it. Government wants to know how LEPs are contributing to local delivery of the UK’s Modern Industrial Strategy, supporting business, innovation and investment, and making sure people have the skills they need to play their part in the growth of our nation.
Fortunately we’ve got loads to talk about in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Most recently was saw the announcement of a partnership agreement between Cornwall Council and satellite launch company Virgin Orbit to bring horizontal satellite launches to Spaceport Cornwall at Cornwall Airport Newquay by 2021.
This was a massive achievement and marked the culmination of over a year’s hard work by a team led and funded by the LEP, in partnership with Cornwall Council. The agreement has been warmly welcomed by Science Minister Sam Gyimah who said the Government would work with Virgin Orbit and the Council to support our region’s spaceflight ambitions as part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy.
The space economy is one of the key growth sectors featured in the LEP’s recently updated 10 Opportunities investment prospectus, and we have spelled out in our Space Action Plan an ambition to create a £1 billion space economy in Cornwall by 2030.
There has been more good news from Goonhilly Earth Station which recently secured a £24 million private sector funding injection on the back of the LEP’s £8.4m investment to support deep space communication from Cornwall. Goonhilly has since set out a roadmap for global growth that includes a new green data centre, facilities in the US and Australia, and support for commercial lunar and Mars missions from 2020.
We have also just signed an agreement with Edinburgh-based satellite launch operator Skyrora to use Cornwall Airport Newquay’s rocket testing facilities with support from the LEP’s Enterprise Zone Infrastructure Fund.
And we have been celebrating the space-related achievements of the younger generation with two Cornish schools pitching their ideas about how satellites can benefit our world at the UK Space Agency’s headquarters in Harwell near Oxford, after winning a national competition.
The teams were supported by the LEP-funded Enterprise Adviser Network which had its own reason to celebrate after being chosen by the Careers & Enterprise Company to host one of just 20 Careers Hubs in England.
The successful bid was led by the LEP and is part of a £5 million Government-funded project over the next two years. The Hubs are a central to the Government’s Careers Strategy, which aims to improve careers education and help prepare young people for the world of work. They are made up local schools and colleges working together with universities, training providers, employers and career professionals.
I am also delighted to confirm that the LEP has secured £465,000 of Government funding to help local businesses recruit and retain people with disabilities and long term health conditions.
TheCornwall Work and Health Beacon Project is the first of its kind in the UK and is the result of almost two years of work by the LEP with Government and our partners across the private, public and voluntary sector. It aims to widen the pool of talent and experience available to employers, creating opportunities for local people and helping to tackle skills shortages.
The project will work with businesses to co-create solutions and build their confidence to employ and retain people with disabilities and long term health conditions, and ensure they have the right support and information available to them. In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly there are almost 50,000 working age people whose day-to-day activities are limited by a long term illness or disability.
We know that businesses can be nervous about hiring someone with a disability, but at the same time have trouble finding the skills they need. So we want to change behaviours and build confidence because an inclusive workforce is good for the individual, good for the economy and good for business.
In another boost for the private sector we have recently celebrated the launch of the £40m Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Investment Fund, which has been established by the British Business Bank in partnership with the LEP, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and UK Government to provide local businesses with more funding options to help them grow and create jobs.
It has been designed following input from local business groups, funders, business advisers and the LEP and will provide debt and equity finance from £25,000 to £2 million. It is expected to unlock a further £40 million of private investment.
The fund has been a long-held ambition of the LEP and our partners and we believe it will prove transformational by creating an enduring legacy of business investment, innovation and growth in our region.
As I write the Government has just published its review of LEPs in which it has reaffirmed its commitment to support LEPs in our delivery of locally-driven, long-term economic growth. This includes the production of an evidence-based Local Industrial Strategy for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, focused on enhancing productivity.
We expect to receive more guidance about Local Industrial Strategies over the summer, and look forward to building on the work we have already done with our 10 Opportunities prospectus. Government aims to agree strategies across England by 2020 in preparation for its Shared Prosperity Fund, which will be a domestic programme of investment after we have left the EU.
I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome Glenn Caplin as the LEP’s new Chief Executive and Service Director (Economic Development and Enterprise) for Cornwall Council. Glenn started his role on 19th July.
He brings a wealth of experience to the role and has a deep understanding of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly business sector. He was most recently Director of Strategic Innovation Projects at Falmouth University, where he led the university’s venture portfolio work.
Prior to that he was Head of Economic Development, Skills and Culture at Cornwall Council where he set the direction of the Council’s Economic Development and Culture Strategy and its implementation. He has also held a number of business and economic development roles in the Council and the Cornwall Development Company.
Glenn joins the LEP at a hugely exciting time and like all of us is committed to promoting prosperity for the businesses and communities of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Finally, two dates for your diary. On the afternoon and evening of 20th September we will be joining the Growth Hub at the Royal Cornwall Showground for GrowthFest, a celebration of business and economic growth in our region. And on 25th September we are staging a Housing and Construction Conference at the Atlantic Hotel in Newquay. Details to follow soon on our website events page.
Have a good summer and best wishes,
Mark Duddridge, LEP Chair