A recent report by IPPR North argued that the North has an economy in which productivity, job creation and employment opportunities are lower than similarly comparable regions in Europe.
The paper, Power and Prosperity, makes the argument that collective action across investment, innovation and trade policy is needed to bolster the region and create a true Northern Powerhouse.
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It’s a case that I support, as collaborative and pan-regional ways of working will help to unlock the economic benefits our regions richly deserve. And while the vision is ambitious, we can make it a reality.
If the North was a single economy it would be worth £304bn, and it is currently home to more than one million enterprises. But for the economy and its firms to grow it requires support; be it better transport links, communication infrastructure, financial, training or mentoring.
Across the North we have sector-rich expertise in advanced manufacturing, professional services, digital, health, higher education, energy and logistics among other sectors. The North also has considerable air, sea and road port infrastructure, which could benefit from further investment and, in turn, support regional growth and growth in international trade.
By coming together in each industry to share experiences and advice we can help other firms enhance their operations and grow.
Equally, it’s important that we back businesses with the financial support that they need to succeed. This year Lloyds Banking Group will help with this by lending £3.4bn to firms across the North.
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Much of the conversation about the Northern Powerhouse has been centred on building a collaborative business environment, but we must also seek to build strong links between companies and research organisations if we want it to succeed. When it comes to R&D, firms can share resources to achieve collective ambitions.
It is collaboration, as well as competition, that will make the North a success.
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Collaboration is just as important when it comes to training a skilled workforce. Our own research shows that as many as four in ten firms in the region have struggled to recruit the talent they need.
By businesses coming together, alongside government, schools, colleges and universities to invest and train the skills the region needs, we can build a talent network that will help the Northern Powerhouse to prosper.
The North has a rich trade in goods and dealt with £59bn in exports alone in 2018. If we are to continue to grow in this area, we need to ensure the region’s firms have access to trade opportunities. Similarly, further investment to develop the North’s transport networks is required to improve connectivity throughout the region.