Guest post by Ben Houchen, Mayor of Tees Valley.
Rebalancing the UK’s economy is one of the great economic policy obstacles of our time.
Making the most of our current abilities and assets, while preparing for a future where the pace of technological innovation outstrips anything seen before is no mean feat.
The most recent financial crisis showed that over reliance on financial services meant that as a nation we had too many of our eggs in one basket and that a change was needed.
At the same time, discussion around the North-South divide highlighted a hunger for the Northern Powerhouse regions to stand on our feet and create the wealth that sustains us, rather than rely on tax receipts from London and the South East.
Delivering the change that people are calling out for
The government’s decision to develop a modern Industrial Strategy is an ideal vehicle to deliver the change that our economy needs and one that people are calling for.
Based on five solid foundations; ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment and place, our Industrial Strategy sets four Grand Challenges that the UK’s regions should be eager to meet.
Playing to the nation’s industrial strengths and the need to increase our competitive edge in global markets, these challenges are centred on the artificial intelligence and data revolution, clean growth, mobility, and how innovation can help us meet the needs of an ageing society.
As the Mayor of the region that is home to some of the UK’s leading businesses in offshore renewables, chemicals and clean energy generation, it is clear to me that the Tees Valley is best suited to the challenge of maximising the advantages of the global shift towards clean growth.
International clean growth agenda
As the natural choice for the country’s hydrogen economy, Carbon Capture Storage and Utilisation Projects, and offshore supply chain, the Tees Valley’s Local Industrial Strategy must support the international clean growth agenda, and seek to ensure Britain is the nation leading this.
As things stand today the Tees Valley has a total population of 700,000, doing 300,000 jobs in some 18,000 businesses, and we contribute £13 billion to the UK’s economic output.
Take the example of advanced manufacturing, which employs around 19,000 people in the area, with GVA per job in the region of £90,000 per year. Even more impressive is the process, chemicals and energy sectors that employ around 8,000 people, with GVA per job close to £125,000.
The region’s connections to the world’s shipping lanes and airports, and national road and rail services put us at the centre of UK imports and exports, so it makes sense that our Local Industrial Strategy will highlight the need to build on them.
The reality of post-Brexit Britain is that we must be a globally-focussed, trading nation and the Tees Valley’s future plans very much reflect this.
No region is the same, for that matter neither is any town or city. Each has unique economic strengths which it can seek to exploit as we tackle the Industrial Strategy’s Grand Challenges.
For regions willing to be realistic about their attributes, the ability to develop their own local Industrial Strategies is a huge opportunity and not one their leaders can afford to miss.