Let's talk about challenges and opportunities we face

Change is the only constant they say, and nowadays it's impossible to keep up! Technology is at the heart of it, creating prosperity for many, but problems for others. And change comes in many guises.

future look: The first of the LEP think pieces gives a view of how a typical day might look once robotics and artificial engineering have taken hold. Picture: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

We’ve seen the devastating impact that flooding can have right here in the heart of York, never mind looking abroad to see how Texas and the Caribbean have been laid waste by hurricanes. And whatever your viewpoint on Brexit, we can be sure it will stimulate real change in the markets our businesses sell to and the staff they employ.

At the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership (LEP), we are aiming to get ahead of the game and help our partners play to their strengths, to secure the best possible future for our residents and businesses. This is being driven in response to another element of change: public policy.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

We anticipate Government will shortly publish a second consultation on their Industrial Strategy, as a prelude to launching a more interventionist Industrial Strategy in middle of next year. This will undoubtedly create new opportunities that we need to take advantage of, which is why we are refreshing our economic strategy.

Local Enterprise Partnerships have a distinct role to play in bringing together businesses, local government and institutions with national government. We are uniquely placed to make the case for local needs and to secure resources to make a change. We need to act now to put our area in the best position to respond to the Industrial Strategy.

This is why since yesterday, we launched our open conversation #YNYERFutures about the challenges and opportunities faced by our area. We are aiming to develop a really robust understanding of where we are, our strengths and weaknesses, and where we are heading.

Having done that we will be able to prioritise which issues and opportunities present the greatest benefits. For example, should we focus on protecting our infrastructure from environmental shocks? Or can we drive more growth through investing in people or facilities? Should we prioritise digital or physical connectivity? These are the tough trade-offs we want to understand better. Because one thing is for sure, we can’t do everything, and nor should we.

Every good business has achieved success by knowing exactly who their customers are and what they want. They don’t try to be all things to all people. Our challenge is somewhat greater. We need to understand how we can best influence a massive and complex system for the greatest benefit.

On the face of it, it seems an impossible task. But the best way to approach such things is to break them down into manageable chunks. Which is exactly what we intend to do. We’re confident that by asking better questions, we will find better answers. To do so, we will be spending the rest of the year asking some big questions about economic productivity, demographics and resilience. To help, we have commissioned dedicated research to help us understand where we are now. We hope the conversation will lead to people also contributing their own research and analysis. But this will only tell us where we are, it won’t try to tell us where we are heading – something often overlooked by public policy. To help, we will be publishing a series of thought-provoking articles from leaders in their fields, to provide an informed insight into how the future will pan out and hopefully inspire the debate.

Only then will we narrow down to some specific problems and opportunities that we feel ourselves and our partners are best placed to address. Having done that, we will look at solutions. But not until we have a really good understanding of which issues we are going to tackle, and which we’re going to leave alone. Asking better questions to find better solutions is our mantra now.

We think this will put our area, its businesses, residents, communities and institutions into a great position to greet the future head on. So far as I know, none of our board or partners have a crystal ball, but we plan to create the next best thing.

The first of the LEPs think pieces is by the University of York’s Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Jon Timmis who gives us a view of how a typical day might look once robotics and artificial engineering have taken hold. He asks given these changes, how will it affect our spare time? Will we have more? And if so what economic opportunities will arise?

Take a look at our website www.businessinspiredgrowth to find out more.

Building a shared understanding

Building a shared understanding of our area’s economic opportunities will include:

-Think pieces from industry leaders to inspire the debate

-Economic evidence

-Asking questions to gather your opinions

Three broad topic areas:

-Productivity

-Resilience

-Demography

Get involved:

-By commenting on the think pieces

-By filling in the questions most relevant to your expertise on their survey

-By tweeting under the #YNYER hashtag