Latest News

Latest News | February 2024

Introduction David Ralph, HotSW LEP CEO

David Ralph

This month saw the confirmation of the biggest gigafactory in the UK, and one of the largest in Europe, being built in Somerset. This is a massive £4 billion investment, which will directly create 4,000 new jobs and thousands more in the wider supply chain.

We also announced funding for the Centre of Future Clean Mobility‘s AI-enabled engineering lab, offering a blend of human AI interaction for designing novel products, systems, and services.

There was promising news for the tourism industry as we announced the contract for a ‘Data Hub’ that will help businesses understand who is visiting the area, how many visitors travel here, as well as what their perceptions of the region are. 

We also looked into the impact the LEP has had since its creation in 2011. I’m really proud of the projects we’ve funded. Take a look at our report to see the full impact we’ve had over the year.

Keep reading to find out more about the Great South WestAccess to Finance events and business support opportunities from the University of Plymouth.

David Ralph
Chief Executive

Gravity welcomes Agratas gigafactory as first smart campus occupier

Plans to build Britain’s biggest electric vehicle battery manufacturing facility in Somerset have been announced. Agratas have confirmed that the Gravity Smart Campus located near Bridgwater has been chosen as the location of its new UK gigafactory.

This development will enable the South West to ‘Take Charge’ and accelerate the UK’s clean and inclusive growth revolution, creating new job and business opportunities in future-facing sectors.

Ground-breaking ‘Data Hub’ project contract awarded for Devon and Somerset

We’re funding Acorn T-Stats to develop a ‘Data Hub’ for the tourism and wider visitor economy in Devon and Somerset. Led by Destination Plymouth and some of the region’s key tourism partners this project will provide a new way of measuring the impact of the visitor sector.

The ‘Data Hub’ will be an online cloud-based tool to help businesses and organisations in the visitor economy sector understand who visits Devon and Somerset, how many visitors travel to the area and for what purpose as well as what their perceptions of the region are

Innovative AI-enabled engineering lab receives funding

The Centre for Future Clean Mobility has been awarded £118,000 to develop a new AI engineering lab. ACE-Lab will actively engage in collaborations with SMEs in the region, establishing strong industry connections.

The ACE-Lab (AI-enabled Co-design in Engineering Laboratory), is managed by the University of Exeter’s Centre for Future Clean Mobility at Exeter Science Park. The innovative project will offer a unique blend of human-AI interaction for designing novel products, systems, and services.

South West’s critical need for social impact funding revealed in new report

Our latest report reveals that a social impact fund would be critical for delivering vital inclusive growth and social value for the region, which along with clean growth is a key underpinning strategy for future growth.

The report sets out case studies that show how place-based social impact investment in other areas has helped support and enhance local places and organisations, in responding to similar challenges.

Train4Tomorrow breakfast

Train4Tomorrow will be hosting a panel breakfast on 5th March at this years South West Innovation Expo. The panel, which includes skills leads from the Department for Education, will be on hand to answer all your questions about free skills bootcamps.

The free tickets are on a first-come, first served basis and include entry to the Expo – to book yours, email

Looking to move from central gas but not sure where to start?

Join Heat Pumps in Practice: Ground, Water or Air on 19th March from 4pm-6pm. Explore recent case studies of water, air and ground source heat pumps installed to heat workspaces in Plymouth, hearing about the experience from both a client and an installer viewpoint.

The event will take place at the University of Plymouth and will help individuals and enterprises wanting to find out more about different types of heat pumps.

South West Investment Summit

Access to Finance SW and Tech South West will deliver the South West Investment Summit 2024 on Wednesday 20 March. Attendees will join discussions led by South West investment managers, angel investors, company leaders, and more.

The event is an opportunity to explore the key challenges and opportunities of the investment landscape.

Region's opportunities to be put on national stage at major event

The Great South West’s ‘Delivering for the UK‘ conference will take place on Friday 13th September. The event will bring together leading national and regional figures, and business leaders, showcasing the region’s role in driving economic growth across the country.

The conference will highlight how critical they are to the future prosperity and resilience of the UK, as global conflicts, food and energy production challenges, availability of vital raw materials and fluctuating markets impact economies, supply chains and societies around the world.

Ensuring a legacy of positive impact for the Heart of the South West

In his latest blog, CEO David Ralph reflects on the impact of the LEP: “Since 2011, the Heart of the South West LEP has been at the forefront of driving economic growth. With over 7,000 jobs already created and more than £2.3 billion  (GVA) injected into our economy.”

“I’m proud of the impact the LEP has had on our local communities and businesses. We will continue working with Local Authorities and other key stakeholders to deliver a smooth transition over the coming weeks and ensure the LEP’s legacy continues.”


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.

Find out more about our board >

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.