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From Steve Bowyer, chief executive of Opportunity Peterborough.
This week saw the government share its Industrial Strategy white paper with the country, a week after the Budget announcements on 20 November.
During both of these important government announcements it was highlighted that productivity within the UK as a whole has declined.
This means that as a country we need to ensure we’re increasing support for sectors that promise the most growth in the future, but also on industries where less development and progress has been achieved to date; both issues which the Industrial Strategy, of course, aims to address.
Peterborough itself needs to boost its productivity levels and can do so from a strong economic foundation: it remains amongst some of the few UK cities that have had real achievements in key areas of economic growth such as job creation, inward investment and exporting, which is cause for real celebration.
There are a number of ways to boost productivity: funding and tax incentives for research and development (R&D) are a positive step, as is investment into the skills of our workforce.
It’s also important to remember that future economic prosperity can be driven through both retraining our existing staff as well as growing the skills of a future workforce. In our region, the award winning Skills Service, which is run by Opportunity Peterborough is helping young people develop their own understanding of how business works and what career paths are available locally. They have a range of activities from CV workshops and enterprise challenges right through to their fantastic annual Careers Show which this year inspired over 6,000 young people who got the chance to talk to over 230 local companies and education providers about careers.
Having commented strongly on the Industrial Strategy at the green paper stage it is great to see many things that we called for included, such as a focus on supporting innovation and developing the right skills in the workforce.
It was exciting to see the Circular Economy included as a key area of consideration within the ‘clean growth’ section. The Industrial Strategy commits the UK to moving towards a regenerative circular economy. Peterborough is already on a ‘Circular’ journey through the Future Peterborough programme, run jointly by Opportunity Peterborough and Peterborough City Council, which shares similar ambitions as the government on achieving zero avoidable waste by 2050. In Peterborough, the circular economy is seen as a key way to deliver sustainable economic growth as well as increasing resource productivity, without causing harm to the environment.
When we’re looking at skills, it is also important to remember that it is not just high tech skills that can boost productivity. Many businesses have told us that they would be able to increase productivity with better levels of business management skills in their companies – maximising systems and personnel management – so we mustn’t lose sight of those opportunities too.
If there were any concerns about the Strategy, it might be around the very tight focus on particular sector areas when the reality is that a wide range of businesses have potential for R&D and technological advances that could also boost productivity. Opportunity Peterborough will be exploring these and some of the other funding opportunities which make the most of the place-based economy, to ensure that the city’s future growth can be supported.
Peterborough has made great advances in areas such as innovation, smart cities, assisted living schemes, and skills development, and as we mentioned in our original response to the consultation we have a wide range of ideas and initiatives that we think would help government and UK plc to deliver its economic goals. But the funding and support needs to be accessible and we need to make sure the right partnerships are in place for it to reach fruition.
Opportunity Peterborough is keen to work with partners and businesses to achieve a co-ordinated approach that delivers real change on the ground in Peterborough.