The Heart of the South West (HotSW) LEP held its fourth Conference and AGM at Sandy Park in Exeter this week, with over 300 delegates.
The event showcased the LEP’s achievements with its £3/4 billion portfolio of investment that’s making a significant impact on the economies of the HotSW area – Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay, which is illustrated in the new Annual Report 2018 launched at the event. This and all other conference presentations is available online at www.hotswlep.oxygendesign.co.uk
LEP Chair Steve Hindley gave a round-up of the journey that the LEP has been on since its inception in 2011, and the impact that it’s already having through its programme of delivery, which includes 67 projects that are all due for completion by 2021. 24 are already complete, 33 underway and a further 7 more are in the pipeline. These projects, which include infrastructure, skills, employment space and flood-prevention schemes, have already generated 2240 new jobs, 3085 new homes and trained 9734 people; and are on a trajectory to deliver 26,930 new jobs, 18,242 new homes and train over 59,000 people by the end of the programme.
Looking forward, Chief Executive David Ralph said that the LEP’s priority is to increase this momentum of impact and harness its new strengths and influence following the review of LEPs this year and the fact that HotSW is part of the Government’s second wave of industrial strategies. This means that the area is near the “front of the queue” for Westminster backing. He said that this LEP can aim to be the “best in class” and with its unique selling points of prime opportunities in key sectors and its unrivalled natural capital, the area really has the potential for transformational growth in productivity.
The Heart of the South West Prospectus was launched at the event – it showcases the major economic opportunities in the sectors of Nuclear, Marine, Photonics, Big Data, Food, Farming and Fishing and High Value Tourism.
Interacting voting from the delegates – the majority of whom were businesses, followed closely by public sector representative, followed by the education sector then the third sector – concluded that top priorities are labour and skills, infrastructure and Brexit.
The HotSW Growth Hub hosted the morning’s proceedings, chaired by the Growth Hub’s Programme and Partnership Manager David Hynd, who outlined the various forms of support available through the Growth Hub, and how it acts as a brokerage service as well as providing direct one-to-one support through its fully-funded package of free support for start-ups.
The session included presentations from leading business support providers:
Julie Hawker of Cosmic gave a thought provoking introduction to the importance of adopting a Digital approach to the core of every business in order to compete in a global market; Katherine Coby and Richard Snell from Devon County Council outlined the HotSW Growth Support Programme and the HotSW Social Enterprise Programme, which both offer 12 hours of free support; Tina Paul from Serco outlined the benefits of apprenticeships for students and employers, and encouraged SMEs to take up the free training for apprentices through the HotSW Apprenticeship Service; Business West presented on the opportunities of international trade through the Export for Growth Programme; Ben Powis of the South West Manufacturing Service (SWMAS) showcased the four main projects SWMA offers for businesses: the Manufacturing Barometer, the Local Manufacturing Service, Hinkley Supply Chain and the Business Hub at the Somerset Energy and Innovation Centre; David Riddell of Business West presented the intensive coaching programme – Innovate2Succeed
The Chair and Chief Executive introduced the afternoon session, which included reflections on the economy that are relevant to the local business community, and the factors required to improve productivity in the HotSW area. Business engagement was highlighted as a USP for HotSW LEP and an important measure of success.
Malinda Myers, Bank of England SW, delivered a snap-shot of the UK and SW economy and some of the issues affecting business such as interest rates, wages and employment.
Ben Rhodes, Deputy Director of CBI SW gave an overview on the CBI’s analysis of wins for the south west from this month’s Budget and the anticipated effects of Brexit on the local business economy.
David Ralph presented on the LEP’s impact and achievements since 2014; which was followed by a panel Q & A session about plans for Brexit with Whitehall speakers from the Local Government Association, the Ministry for Communities and Local Government, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the Homes Office. The panel also included the HotSW chair of the Brexit Resilience and Opportunities Group, the Regional Director of the NFU and the HotSW LEP chair.
Following the panel discussion, delegates were invited to take part in break-out sessions led by the three leadership Groups:
The Place leadership group heard a presentation on the LEP’s role in improving infrastructure through its strategic work with government; and a presentation on the importance of raising Coastal Productivity to through specific interventions to increase the overall prosperity of HotSW.
In the Business Group, the HM Lord-Lieutenant of Devon, David Fursdon, gave a presentation to encourage businesses to enter the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, with some great case studies of previous winners and how the award process has benefitted their business. Bini Ludlow of Sweet Cumin and Adam Parker of Rhinoplay showcased the success stories, and both urged other businesses to apply for awards, business support and grant funding.
The People breakout session gave an overview on employment and skills issues in the area, the LEP’s current initiatives on skills training, careers advice and guidance, and held workshops to give feedback on the LEP’s priorities.
The conference was rounded up by the Annual General Meeting, in which Board members signed off the accounts and continued its commitment to improve transparency.
All the presentations are available on the conference section of the website here.
Chair of the Heart of the South West LEP, Steve Hindley, CBE DL, said: “I couldn’t be more proud of our fantastic place to live and work – a message that’s increasingly getting across to businesses investing from outside the area and our friends in Westminster.
“At our fourth annual conference I am pleased to say that we’re on track for delivery of all of our fantastic infrastructure, employment and skills projects, and with our partners in the HotSW Joint Committee we’ve launched our new Prospectus – with the theme of #LivingBetter – which showcases the area’s prime economic opportunities for raising productivity and therefore prosperity for all in the Heart of the South West.”