As a Northern developer we have a keen interest in how the regions are developing and what the future holds. Whether you look at Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Liverpool, Sheffield or Hull, it is clear that the fortune of individual places in the North is dependent on the success of all.
In the second article of this new series, we take a look at how the government’s industrial strategy can be implemented locally across the North to the benefit of the region as a whole.
In 2017, the UK government released its industrial strategy designed to tackle Britain’s decreasing productivity and champion key future sectors as varied as self-driving cars, the life sciences and construction. 18 months later it is unclear how well the strategy is doing, but it is evident that the future of the North is dependent on building world class modern industries.
The strategy is built around five foundations – ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment, and places and communities – which align to the government’s vision of a transformed economy. More specifically, the strategy is centred around four “grand challenges”: putting the UK at the forefront of the artificial and data revolution; maximising Britain’s extreme potential for clean energy growth; becoming a global leader in the logistics of moving people, goods and services; and, harnessing innovations to meet the challenge of an ageing society.
Many measures were included in the strategy to meet these lofty goals, such as raising research and development investment to 2.4% of national GDP by 2027 and increasing the tax credit available for such activities to 12%. Large investments – such as £406m for mathematics and technical education, £400m to support electric car charging infrastructure and £1bn to boost our dilapidated digital infrastructure – were announced to begin immediately putting meat on the bones.
However, from the point of view of the Northern economy the most interesting part was the focus on providing deals for individual sectors and prioritising local industrial strategies. Given that any attempt to treat “The North” as a single entity is doomed to failure, it has long been acknowledged as vital that every region must benefit from the Northern Powerhouse if the project is to be considered a success. As noted regularly by figures such as John Prescott, a Northern economic boom which never reaches Tyneside, Wearside, the East Riding of Yorkshire or Cumbria is not a Northern economic boom at all. Likewise, development concentrated in cities at the expense of towns is not the way forward.
The wealth of the North, both economically and culturally, resides in the many different local strengths that run through its cities and towns like writing through a stick of rock. There is much that links the Northern regions together, but a greater combined strength can be found in celebrating and promoting each area’s unique specialities and character.
But what might that look like in reality? A sensible way to start is by looking at where jobs in specific centres are concentrated and begin to invest appropriately from there. Research from Emsi, a data firm dedicated to helping local, regional and national economies function more effectively, shows how niche industry clusters are spread around the North.
The analysis groups together 563 of the Office for National Statistics’ industry classifications in 49 “industry clusters” across the regions. The groupings are based on certain shared characteristics such as similar workforces, mutual supply chain connections and tendencies to co-locate. By doing so, the intention is to come up with a coherent picture of where certain industries are strongest and can be considered a regional specialism. In turn, this creates a road map – if you were looking to expand your company’s life sciences offering you can see where it makes sense to locate it.
For instance, we can see that Blackpool’s visitor economy is three and a half times larger than that in similar sized towns; Sheffield’s upstream metals economy is, unsurprisingly, more than five times larger than the national benchmark; Leeds and Newcastle are both twice as good for education and knowledge research than the average; Birkenhead is more than seven and a half times more attractive for maritime businesses and investment than the norm; Macclesfield is a national centre for the downstream chemical sector, achieving a rating more than 13 times higher than average.
With insight like this we can start to look at targeting investment as efficiently as possible in order to make the most of the North’s potential. If the government’s industrial strategy is to truly make a difference, it must be implemented based on local evidence and specialisms. In this way, the North can become more than the sum of its parts and be a true player in the UK’s 21st century economy.
As the North’s economy grows, so will its workforce - making this the perfect time to purchase investment property in the region. Click here today for more information and to enquire.