Following the simultaneous launch of four Local Industrial Strategies to boost the Oxford-Cambridge Arc initiative, two LEP CEOs spoke exclusively to business leaders in Milton Keynes to explain how the city is playing a vital role in delivering these strategies.
Richard Harrington, CEO of Bucks & Thames Valley LEP, and Hilary Chipping, Chief Executive of the South East Midlands LEP, were guest speakers at a Milton Keynes Business Leaders (MKBLP) event earlier this month. Delivering a strong message to the audience, both CEOs stressed the need for businesses to harness the power and opportunities within the density of the Arc, while pushing the boundaries of their individual businesses to boost productivity and the wider economy.
“The role of the Local Industrial Strategy is not to dictate how the Arc prospers, but rather to facilitate it, with a focus on increasing productivity across all sectors and geographies within the SEMLEP area,” said Ms Chipping. Honing in on the need for business to business collaboration, Ms Chipping stressed the overriding desire for an employer led skills strategy, which would not only enrich the wider business community, but encourage people to stay within the area and remain productive. Highlighting the fundamental elements of the Local Industrial Strategies across the SEMLEP regions, Ms Chipping also addressed the need for businesses and universities across the area to link together, in a bid to create a pipeline of skills that will match the future needs of local employers, particularly in the digital and wider STEM realm. Critically, Milton Keynes is already making key strides in delivering strands within the strategies, from sustainable digital infrastructure, with the installation of full fibre connectivity, to mobility. Defined as reducing carbon emissions and congestion, while making mobility greatly available to all, Milton Keynes is undoubtedly ahead in the mobility stakes, with the greatest number of EV charging stations to the highest uptakes of electric and hybrid vehicles. While reinforcing the prominent role Milton Keynes plays within the Arc, particularly with its pioneering technology capabilities, Mr Harrington drove home the need for businesses to recognise that they are part of a greater eco-system. “Milton Keynes is a great city but couple its GVA with that of Buckingham and we have the biggest GVA contributor within the Arc, with the highest productivity rate.
We are not just the bit in the middle, but a really powerful core of the Arc.”
While Buckinghamshire has always been in the top five of the most productive counties in the UK, with the highest employment rate, this position is in regression. Consequently, Mr Harrington urged business leaders to work collaboratively and take advantage of the full strength of the Arc to sustain, and ultimately boost, the business economy.
While representing separate industrial strategies within the LEP area, both CEOs were unanimous in their desire for businesses to play their role in delivering the strategy, while becoming ambassadors for the Arc.