How Yorkshire manufacturers can lead Britain's green economic recovery

Yorkshire's manufacturing firms can play a leading role in Britain's green economic recovery, a major business event was told.

The roundtable event was told that the Humber was an "enormous asset" which would generate vast investment in areas like offshore wind production.

The comments were made by June Smith, the regional director, North, for Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation, at an online round table to celebrate The Yorkshire Post's Excellence in Business awards, sponsored by Grant Thornton.

Ms Smith said: "The good news is that Make UK’s Quarter One Manufacturing Outlook report shows Yorkshire to have the most positive uptake in orders as we emerge from Covid 19 with 47% of manufacturers reporting increased order pipelines for the next three months. Output and investment is increasing, as is business confidence.

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"The Yorkshire manufacturing landscape is diverse in size and sub-sector, with particular specialisms in food, metals, pharma, electronics, textiles and renewables, contributing at all levels to supply chains.

Andy Wood of Grant Thornton

Ms Smith added: "With many manufacturers located outside our city centres their contribution to their regional economies may not be obvious.

"Leeds City Region for example, with a high proportion of SME manufacturers, has one of the highest manufacturing outputs in the UK, whilst in contrast, we are also home to the advanced manufacturing investments of Rolls Royce, Boeing and McLaren in the Sheffield City Region.

“Manufacturing in Yorkshire has come a long way since the days of dark satanic mills of the industrial revolution.

"Our sector strengths make us attractive to new supply chains and global opportunities .The manufacturing sector across Yorkshire is embracing digitalisation and net zero and already attracting renewables investment as part of our energy estuary and coastline .

"With continued investment in skills and digital infrastructure, Yorkshire's manufacturers are on track to be very much part of the solution to a green economic recovery”.

Another participant, Anna Sutton, the CEO of The Data Shed, a data services company based in Leeds, said: "The success of the tech sector and the universities have turned Leeds into a flagship to attract external investors. We need to share this wealth across the region.

"We have a hub of tech businesses in Leeds and we need to push that network across the wider region.

"We need projects to help non tech people to come into the digital economy. We need to become more diverse. There are a number of challenges in that space. A lot of the focus will be on the next generation of talent and where graduates choose to go. How do we keep talent in the region?"

Ms Sutton added: "We need somebody who can act as a mouthpiece and fight our corner on the national and international stage. I have been quite envious of the North West this year and the real amplification they’ve had from Andy Burnham, who has campaigned hard for his region."

Henri Murison, the director at The Northern Powerhouse Partnership, told the event that he hoped Yorkshire would play a leading role in the decarbonisation of industry and " we will have the right school system and adult skill systems to meet our needs".

He said the Humber was an enormous asset which would generate vast investment in areas like offshore wind production.

Andy Wood, the Yorkshire managing partner, at Grant Thornton UK LLP, said sectors such as advanced manufacturing, digital and health innovation are going to be significant as Yorkshire emerges from the pandemic.

He added: “Clearly Leeds is important but there are other towns and cities who have an important role to play. For example, our public services advisory team are delighted to be advising on the Towns Fund, which is providing support for nine towns in Yorkshire, including Wakefield, Dewsbury and Brighouse.

Mr Wood added: “So it’s important we don’t just focus on the bigger cities. We must also focus on re-skilling, particularly when so many people have lost their jobs during the pandemic.”

"We've got a fantastic opportunity because your place of work is less important than it was 12 months ago. That cuts both ways. If we live for example, somewhere like Ilkley it doesn't mean that we can't support an operation based somewhere else in the country.

"It has blurred the line between where companies are based and where work gets done. We need to focus on skills and inclusivity so that everybody benefits from economic growth as we recover.

"We live in the biggest and best county in the country. Let's absolutely push this agenda and win."

Ben Still, the Managing Director of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, who also participated in the round table, said: "What came through strongly from this event was the level of collective confidence among the panel about Yorkshire’s economic strengths from manufacturing, low carbon and food to health and care, creative and tourism.

"There was also a recognition of the importance of strengthening Yorkshire’s competitiveness in areas such as digital tech, improving skills, creating new, innovative businesses and rates of exporting.”

The event which was chaired by Greg Wright, the deputy business editor of The Yorkshire Post.

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