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A decade of transformation

At this month’s Board meeting, we discussed the upcoming transition of LEP functions  and reflected on the journey and lessons learnt since the establishment LEPs in 2010. As part of the broader devolution agenda, the baton of responsibility carried by LEPs will be handed over to upper-tier local authorities from the end of this month. This marks a significant  moment in both  regional and economic development strategy, reinforcing the importance of local governance and leadership in shaping the economic future of our area.

LEPs have been instrumental in fostering a business-led partnership, encompassing local authorities, further and higher education institutions and focused on the key drivers of economic prosperity and productivity – research and innovation, skills, infrastructure,  business support and inward investment. Indeed only this month, we have seen one of the largest inward investment events confirmed for the the development of a gigafactory at the Gravity Enterprise Zone site near Bridgwater, Somerset I have no doubt the willingness of local partners to use the business rate uplift Mechanism to demonstrate real local commitment was an important factor in securing the investment.

One of the core responsibilities of LEPs has been the delivery of 3 Growth Deals with Government. These deals have been crucial in channelling investment into local priorities, including EU-funded programs, two other Enterprise Zones in Oceansgate, Plymouth, Exeter, and enhancing the delivery and local supply chain at Hinkley Point C. LEPs, alongside local authorities  have also  played a vital role in mobilising partners and the Government to navigate challenges like Brexit and the pandemic, advocating for necessary and timeliness of funding and investment.

Our partnerships have supported universities in funding applications for research, enhanced access to business finance, and launched specific place-based initiatives such as PASD Freeport, Town Deals, and improvements to infrastructure and High Streets funding. In recent years, we have seen the first physical improvement (as opposed to planned maintenance) to the A303, as well as the implementation of the Dawlish scheme and the reopening of the Okehampton line.

Among the highlights of our journey, we have taken a leading role in developing the business case for the Great South West Pan-regional Partnership, spotlighting emerging region-wide opportunities such as energy, defence, food security, and natural capital. The partnership is a commitment to identifying and nurturing the region’s potential in these critical areas.

Reflecting on the past decade, LEP investments and efforts have helped both resilience in the  the region’s economic landscape but also highlighted some of the real emerging opportunities in AI, Floating Offshore wind, environmental science and health.

 We have operated the partnership through a Community Interest Company (CIC) composed of volunteers from across the region, which I would personally like to thank for their contributions over many years. As we approach transition, it is important to acknowledge the commitment of countless business leaders who have generously contributed their time and expertise to support the region’s economy and communities. Together, we’ve built a more resilient South West, poised for future challenges and opportunities but it will be for others to see them through.


Comprised of business leaders from across our key sectors, the LEP Board oversees the programme of infrastructure, business support and skills projects being delivered by 2025.

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LEP board meetings & documents >

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      David Ralph

      Chief Executive

      David Ralph started as Chief Executive of Heart of South West LEP at the beginning of June 2018. Previously, he had spent 5 years as CEO of the Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire (D2N2) LEP from 2013 where he oversaw the development of the D2N2 Strategic Economic Plan and sector strategies, 3 Growth Deals with HM Government to deliver a £1billion capital investment programme, securing and implementing £200m ESIF programme, the Derby and Nottingham Enterprise Zone, the D2N2 Skills Deal and Time for Innovation programme, community fund and led the executive team to develop the HS2 East Midlands hub. He was also closely involved in the proposed North Midlands Devolution Deal and one of the key architects in establishing the Midlands Engine, chairing the officer steering group. Whilst in this role David was a NED of the Nottingham Enterprise Zone, and Marketing NG, the Outer Estates Foundation and a Governor of Nottingham College and on the advisory Board of Nottingham Business School.

      Before the East Midlands, David was CEO of the Have Gateway Partnership working closely with local stakeholders including the ports of Felixstowe, Harwich and Ipswich and BT Adadastral Park across Suffolk and Essex and prior to that was Chief Exec of the Barton Hill New Deal for Communities programme in Bristol and the Nelm Development Trust in Norwich.

      David is a keen sailor, walker and trail runner.