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Speech to GrowthFest 20 September 2018

This is the full text of a speech delivered by Glenn Caplin, Chief Executive of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, at GrowthFest, a celebration of business support and business success held at the Royal Cornwall Showground on September 20, 2018.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Glenn Caplin and for the last seven weeks I have been Chief Executive of the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.

I am also service director for Economic Growth at Cornwall Council, and have been involved in economic development in Cornwall for much of my career.

Today is all about celebrating the success of our business community, and how the LEP, Council and others are working together to create an environment in which our people and businesses can thrive.

We want successful businesses that create quality jobs, pay good wages and offer opportunity to all.

Through the EU programme and Devolution Deal we have a suite of business and skills support programmes that are designed to do just that, and it’s good to see so many of them here today.

We’ve already heard about the success of the Growth & Skills Hub, and how it is reaching the parts that other business support hasn’t reached before, both in terms of sectors and geography.

So, if you’re in business but haven’t connected with the Growth Hub yet, please do so. We’ll hear more later about how it can help you grow your business and your people.

For anyone who hasn’t t heard of the LEP before, we are one of 38 Local Enterprise Partnerships in England. LEPs are here to set local economic priorities, drive growth and job creation, and raise workforce skills.

We are business-led, and our board members are drawn from local businesses, local authorities, and education institutions.

The Government has tasked LEPs to use their local knowledge to drive investment in their areas.

We are responsible for allocating the Government’s Local Growth Fund, from which we have secured almost £80 million, to invest in projects that unlock jobs, infrastructure and investment across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

And as you heard earlier from LEP Chair Mark Duddridge, we are also being charged with drawing up a Local Industrial Strategy which will shape future investment in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly after Brexit.

This will reflect the Government’s own Industrial Strategy, which is intended to be a post-Brexit blueprint for the UK economy.

Every LEP is expected to produce a Local Industrial Strategy and have it in place by early 2020. It will also shape how Government allocates its new Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace EU funding from – we think – 2021. So, we are entering a critical transition phase away from the EU funding programmes that we have had for more than two decades, to one where there are still a lot of uncertainties.

We have already allocated around three quarters of our EU funding pot – you’ll no doubt be aware of some of those investments – in geothermal, space, innovation, extending the geographical reach of business support and increasing higher level skills.

Whether we leave the EU with a deal or without one, we fully intend to ensure that the remaining funding is invested in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly before the programmes close, and will continue to argue for our ring-fenced status as England’s only Less Developed Region to be honoured – whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.

And whatever the new funding formula is for the Shared Prosperity Fund, we will be making the case for both the need and the opportunity here to be recognised.

A simple value-for-money equation may work perfectly well in urban centres, but it doesn’t work in a geographically dispersed economy, where the costs of delivery may be higher and the economies of scale lower. Yet we possess environmental, physical, natural and knowledge assets that are of huge value and these should be maximised.

Our region needs a range of investment tools and mechanisms to make sure that the private sector is supported to grow.

The good news is that there is much in the Government’s Industrial Strategy that aligns closely with our own exciting ambitions in Cornwall and Scilly. And this is no accident. The LEP and its partners have been working hard to position the region for investment and growth.

This includes the creation of the £40 million Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Investment Fund for business, which was launched in June by the British Business Bank. The Bank is here today so please visit their stand to find out more.

Inside your delegate packs you will find a copy of 10 Opportunities. It’s basically an investment prospectus for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly across a range of established and emerging sectors.

Apart from the opportunity for growth, what binds them all together is a strong sense of place.

Place and place making are overused words these days, but they are important because it’s all about how we use the unique features of where we live to drive our economy and benefit our communities.

Take mining for example. Cornwall’s mineral-rich geography spawned a mining industry that once produced most of the UK’s tin and copper and saw the creation of ports, harbours and entire towns. Today that expertise continues to be exported around the world, as I saw during a recent visit to Wheal Jane where the list of countries buying mining expertise from Cornish companies stretches around the world

And the increasing demand for electric vehicles and electronics has led to a rise in global demand for tin and lithium, prompting a new wave of mineral exploration in Cornwall.

This includes, for the first time, using satellite technology to search for subterranean lithium deposits by mapping geology from space.

Earth observation is one of the key drivers of a new space race to put thousands of small satellites in orbit over the next few years.

That is creating the need for safe and affordable access to space, which is why the LEP and Cornwall Council have worked so hard to bring Virgin Orbit’s horizontal satellite launch system to Spaceport Cornwall. We are hopeful that by 2020 the first satellites will be launched into space from Newquay.

The space sector is growing four times as fast as the UK economy and is an important part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, while the number of aerospace companies in Cornwall has doubled in just five years.

The LEP’s £8.4 million investment in Goonhilly Earth Station announced earlier this year is designed to capture some of that growth, giving Cornwall the ability to track and control deep space missions to the moon and mars.

Another opportunity is energy. The EU Growth Programme is investing £10 million in the United Downs Deep Geothermal Project to explore geothermal resources deep beneath our feet.

Like mining, this resource is an accident of geography but it will soon be used to heat the Jubilee Pool in Penzance – and anyone that has ever swum in Jubilee Pool knows that is a good idea!

On the Isles of Scilly, the LEP and EU Growth programme are co-funding the pioneering Smart Islands project to create a local energy grid. This will use an Internet of Things platform to balance electricity supply and demand which will promote growth and economic resilience.

Smart Islands has been hailed in the Government’s Industrial Strategy as an exemplar of clean growth, and its findings are expected to be scalable across the world. But it wouldn’t be possible without the unique characteristics of Scilly as an island community needing to develop sustainable infrastructure.

There are many more examples of how we can harness place for economic growth. Our marine industry has been forged by millennia of seafaring and the number of marine tech businesses has increased by 95% in the last five years.

Today that expertise is engaged in many of the world’s marine renewable energy projects, and the LEP is exploring how we can harness that to support the creation of a new offshore floating wind industry in Cornwall.

Another key sector is the creative industries, which are growing at twice the rate of the UK economy. That’s one reason why the LEP is investing £2 million of Growth Deal money to create a new digital and creative industries cluster as part of the £20 million rebuild of the Hall for Cornwall.

We want to foster more businesses like Engine House VFX, an animation company in Redruth, which was named this year as one of the 50 most exciting, innovative and disruptive companies in the Country by Creative England.

So, if you haven’t read 10 Opportunities then please do. It is designed to be the foundation of our response when the Government asks our region for a Local Industrial Strategy. We don’t pretend to have all the answers, but it is a good start and we will want to involve the business community to help us set priorities for investment as future funding arrangements evolve.

I want to finish with a few words about inclusive growth. Everything we and our partners do is designed to close the inequality gaps that persist in our communities. As well as better jobs, better wages and better skills, we need to do everything we can to make our society more inclusive and support the 42% of people who are just about managing.

That includes working with people who are removed from the labour market because of disability, or long term health conditions, which number some 50,000 in our area, or 15% of the working age population.

As Mark said in his video, the majority want to work but often don’t have the opportunity to do so.

For the last two years the LEP has been working with local businesses, support agencies and Government to look at how we can overcome these barriers and give employers the information they need to recruit with confidence.

This summer the LEP secured almost half a million pounds of funding for a pilot project that aims to learn lessons that can be rolled out across the UK.

So, I’m very pleased to hand over to Sarah Newton MP, Minister of State for Disabled People, Heath and Work, who will explain a bit more about the Health & Work Beacon Project, and how businesses can get involved.

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