Sometimes, Government puts out so much detail and it is often a challenge for businesses to know what to read first.
Recently, two large and much awaited announcements; the Autumn Budget and the launch of the Industrial Strategy to increase productivity has seen the Government on the offensive, batting away Brexit fears like the Australians did the England fast bowlers.
Many of the key messages are still very much the same. Investment in infrastructure, skills, education and availability of finance to support business growth. In particular, increased support to those working in leading edge innovations, and help to drive up UK productivity.
More locally, the HotSW Local Enterprise Partnership has an ambitious aim to double its economy by 2036, raising productivity by 3% per annum and will be concentrating on cross cutting sector themes and golden opportunities to deliver this. Leaders for the Heart of the South West (LEP and local authorities) are consulting on the productivity plan at a local level.
Torbay is home to innovative, leading edge companies across photonics & microelectronics, high value manufacturing, life sciences and biomedical & healthcare sectors. These companies can support this increase in productivity, creating high value local employment.
However, the level of potential successful applications by companies applying for funding from Innovate UK, the Government’s innovation agency, is low. It’s great that funding has been increased, but locally it needs to be invested in those who can translate that into productivity growth. Early stage innovative companies, especially in photonics, experience very high costs in new product development and test. It’s the same for biomedical and high value manufacturing companies also.
TDA looks to work more closely with Innovate UK in the South West to align shared aims of more successful applications to its competition calls from across Torbay.
A recent review of the feedback from TDA aftercare programme, where the primary focus is to understand and support business’ future growth plans, provides further interesting pointers with regards to Brexit.
The leading edge nature of some of Torbay’s companies means that they need the best people to be successful. Sometimes this means they have to spread the net across Europe to secure key roles. In the tech sector, some companies have experienced a lower number of applications from across wider Europe for well-paid roles. It is likely that individuals are almost certainly concerned with EU negotiations around immigration.
Interestingly, last week the Chancellor announced an increase in visas for exceptional talent in technology, science art and creative sectors. Let’s hope this helps Torbay’s leading edge companies to continue to grow and create further employment in the face of Brexit challenges. Future trade tariffs, rising raw materials costs, volatile markets and better digital connectivity all continue to pose a threat but the opportunity of tackling new export markets should provide fantastic opportunities for new growth.
The business secretary does make a very good point, and going back to local ambitions, he feels that with skills, the productivity gap and infrastructure that the disparities between regions are just as important to be tackled and warrant priority focus.
This is true of Torbay and wider south Devon. We still need a more resilient rail infrastructure, better airport connections, faster digital connectivity and many of these are a given for internationally operating businesses who are creating high value employment. After all, this is the type of employment we will need to raise that productivity gap. We need to support these companies with their innovation, export and growth plans and also provide the skilled future workforce they need.
This is in essence what makes a location attractive to expanding companies, whether from other parts of the UK or abroad. Let’s keep working together to make that happen.