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Catalysts for future growth

As LEPs gear up for the conclusions of the Levelling-Up White Paper and Comprehensive Spending Review, LEP business leaders have identified five core future values that must be taken forward if local communities and businesses are to genuinely feel the benefits of levelling up and local growth.

As business-led partnerships, LEPs are in ongoing discussions with officials and stakeholders to help define exactly what the best form of business representation and support looks like in the future. Based on a ‘what works’ approach, LEPs have identified five clear future values that they can bring to the table:

  • Net zero: enabling local businesses to invest in Net Zero technologies and practices.
  • Innovation: collaborating with local universities on innovation, R&D and productivity.
  • Business support: delivering locally tailored business support across the country.
  • Private investment: stimulating local investment to transform local economies.
  • Skills: ensuring local skills reflect the needs of local economies.

LEP Network Chair, Mark Bretton, said:

“This coming autumn, the government will be concluding its Levelling Up White Paper and setting out the spending plans that will impact generations to come.

“For 10 years LEPs have collaborated across the country, using our unique convening power to deliver complex programmes that are transforming local communities and economies.

“Business led, our decisions and programmes are the result of multiple negotiations with all partners, underpinned by published robust evidence, and executed as agreed, on time, on budget and with the promised outcomes.

“Aligning the recommendations of the LEP review with the ambitions of policy is a valuable opportunity to lace in our future value, secure funding to match that policy ambition, and enable us to play our full part as the catalyst to deliver the Plan for Growth and Net Zero.

“We must now get the review done and get on with the job of ensuring that we really do build back better.”

LEPs have built a unique partnership of over 2,000 business, 180 locally elected councillors and 250 FE and HE leaders that is accelerating business-led local growth. They played a key role in supporting business throughout the pandemic, within weeks launching over 100 locally tailored support initiatives to support SMEs, which saw almost 2m businesses turn to their LEPs’ Growth Hubs within the first 6 months of the pandemic, far more than the entire previous year.

Johnathan Werran, chief executive of the think-tank Localis, said:

“LEPs came through the stress test of how to engineer economic pandemic recovery with flying colours, showing their worth with the immediacy and intelligence of their responses in rapidly devising credible local growth strategies that united a diverse set of partners.

“If the aim of the spending review and levelling up agenda is to build back better, and starting from now, Localis views LEPs as an optimal, oven-ready structure for binding our local economic anchors with the local and national engines of state.  Truth be told, if they didn’t exist already, senior officials and ministers would be busy inventing them.”

The future value of what LEPs bring is clear:

  • They are future catalysts for action on Net Zero: whether it’s the North East on its way to becoming the UK’s first cluster for low carbon heat innovation, geothermal technology, and lithium extraction in the South West to help meet demand for the UK’s battery manufacturing for EV, or hydrogen developments in the Humber.
  • They are future catalysts for innovation: the Health Technology Innovation Hub will create a regional centre of excellence, accelerating development and deployment of health technologies across the South West, and the Herts LEP Cell and Gene Therapy Integration Laboratory in Stevenage, exclusively dedicated to the provision of cell and gene therapy manufacturing.
  • Catalysts for business support with circa 2 million businesses supported through the LEP Growth Hub Network in the last 12 months alone, much of this is finance direction and assistance, especially in the rapidly changing COVID environment, and in post Brexit support.
  • They act as catalysts for economic clusters that deliver more skilled jobs to bolster the green economy, and more R&D and innovation that already sees over 300 collaborations with universities and FE colleges.
  • LEPs have invested significantly in innovative skills capital funding projects that are targeted on local need not national formulae, including for example the skills campus in Nottingham which has received over £30m from D2N2 LEP and the investment in 5 colleges across the Heart of the South West to deliver the skills needed to build Hinkley Point C.

LEPs will deliver these outcomes through the following evolved roles:

  • Strategic role: providing place-based economic expertise and insight to central and local government and securing long-term inclusive growth and driving Net Zero ambitions at the local level as part of the Plan for Growth, building on our strategic economic and recovery plans underpinned by robust evidence bases.
  • Sector focus: identifying key local sectors and industries to design and deliver interventions to make places more competitive and exploiting place-based opportunities in innovation and nurturing skills to help local people realise their ambitions and providing what business needs. LEPs will collaborate across geographical boundaries to make this happen.
  • Tailored business support: delivering a free programme of joined-up, expert tailored business advice and support for local businesses, building on our highly successful Growth Hub network, ensuring firms play their full part in the Plan for Growth. A consistent, quality, core offer available throughout the country with the ability to tailor bespoke local programmes which meet the needs of local business. This has proved extremely valuable in dealing with economic shocks.
  • Continued commitment: LEPs oversee hundreds of current projects that are delivering under current programmes, namely the Getting Building Fund, Enterprise Zones, Local Growth Fund, Growing Places Fund, Freeports and ESIF/ESF/ERDF. Retaining continuity of this ownership and accountability is critical to successful project delivery and to mitigation of risk.

Dr Jeremy Silver, Catapult Network Chair and CEO of Digital Catapult said:

“For local economies to thrive and therefore compete at a global scale, innovation led growth is crucial.

“Facilitating better alignment of local agendas between businesses, the research community and local decision makers on the ground is helping to create world-leading regional clusters of technological advancement in the UK and nurture new talent to develop the innovations of the future.

“Catapults have been in recent years working closely with LEPs and other local decision makers across the country on this mission, attracting high value investment into economically lagging, deindustrialised areas, creating jobs, wealth and investor confidence. As a key enabler of the Innovation Strategy, Catapults look forward to working in partnership with LEPs and others delivering regional innovation programmes of growth in areas of critical national importance.”

Underlying each of these roles is a focus on skills, ensuring that business plays its part in shaping FE and apprenticeship courses using our Skills Advisory and Digital Skills Panels and continuing our involvement with the Careers and Enterprise Company through our Enterprise Advisor Network.

The current government review of LEPs is examining how future local business organisations can best support the Plan for Growth with a specific focus on the UK’s transition to a net zero economy, boosting international trade, stimulating innovation, and exploiting local strengths and comparative economic advantage. The conclusions will feed into the Levelling-Up White Paper due later this year.

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