One of the biggest issues facing Western societies today is the so-called ‘brain drain’. This is the effect whereby people with skills and ambition find that in order to fulfil their potential they must move to a certain area. This creates a vicious cycle: as more people move to certain centralised hubs, other regions increasingly become unfertile for innovation. In the UK, this has seen huge amounts of funding, businesses, and opportunities gravitate to London, as well as international centres of business, innovation and finance. Cities in the North have been hit particularly hard by this phenomenon of ‘magnetic cities’, which attract everything towards themselves, leaving other areas lacking.
This is where the Local Enterprise Partnership comes in. Working to facilitate cooperation between local businesses, large corporations and government investment, the LEP hopes to continually stimulate the local economies that have begun to suffer from the effects of globalism. It appears to be working well: in the last ten years, the LEP in Liverpool has brought 100 investments, £10bn invested, 24,000 additional jobs and 8,000 additional businesses to the area. On Tuesday, the Liverpool LEP held a conference in the city centre which was attended by over 250 delegates and was hosted by broadcaster Ranvir Singh. Numerous businesses and organisations were represented in the exhibition hall, followed by over three hours of presentations.
The first half of the event was presented by Frankie Woodhead from Barclays on the future of digitisation, Jenn Barnett from Grant Thornton on the future of work and Justine Andrew from KPMG on the future of cities. Their vision of the future is optimistic, and it’s not hard to see why. The decentralisation of economic power in recent years has afforded many people the opportunity to start their own businesses and succeed – The Webinar Vet is a clear example of this. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. The total population of Liverpool is 1,538,461. The gross value added (GVA) per head is £20,125, which isn’t a high as it ideally would be, below the Northern average of £21,500. The figures don’t really improve from there. Our employment rate for those between 16 and 24 is bottom of the list at 48.9%, and the total employment rate is second from bottom at 55.7% (but if you are Scouse, you can thank your lucky stars you don’t live in Tees Valley). Our percentage of people with no qualifications at all is exceptionally high at 11.29%, and if you were hoping that this might be offset by people with trade apprenticeships, bad news – a paltry 2.99% of Liverpudlians are learning a trade. Our business density rate is also not great. To put it simply, there is work to be done. To address this issue, the LEP has set these targets:
- 5,000 additional businesses
- £5bn of private sector investment
- 30,000 additional jobs
- All school leavers to have had positive business contacts
- 10% increase in the exports and exporters
- 20% increase in the commercialisation of R&D
The second half of the presentations focused on Liverpool City Region businesses. Ranvir Singh wowed the audience by interviewing Mike Houghton of Siemens and Lee Omar of Red Ninja through a virtual reality simulator. Clemens Wangerin, Managing Director of vTime, the company that produces the technology, explained the importance of local investment in promoting innovation, which has allowed many exciting new technologies to arise. After that, six City Region entrepreneurs – Dean Ward from Evoke Creative, Su Stringfellow from Harrison Stringfellow, Michelle Dow from All About STEM, Bernard Ross from Sky Medical, Danny Murphy from the Gracious Development Group and Rechelle Davies from Energy Fairies – delivered presentations about their businesses, and the journeys they have taken, including the successes and the failures, and reaffirmed the importance of not concentrating investment and opportunity in a few small places. Hopefully, with the help of the LEP, the future of Northern businesses isn’t too bleak.
To find out about an Local Enterprise Partnership near you, check out the LEP website.
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