Henri Murison made an impassioned plea for greater collaboration and improved transport connectivity across the Northern cities at a major business event hosted by The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Beckett University.
The Innovation Network event - The Northern Powerhouse & Regional Growth - featured an expert panel who provided insights into the challenges and opportunities faced by policymakers who are trying to implement the Northern Powerhouse project.
The Northern Powerhouse Partnership, which is chaired by George Osborne, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, has been established by business and civic leaders across the North to encourage economic growth.
During his presentation, Mr Murison highlighted the importance of transport in forging economic ties across the North.
He said: “In practical terms, you can talk about bringing these cities together, but if you can’t get between them easily, then it is not a viable proposition.”
Problems with the transport network can influence graduates’ career choices, he said.
He told the audience: “If they can’t find a job in Leeds, they will go to London whereas, ironically there may have been a job in Manchester they could have got, which would have probably had greater opportunities in the long run. But they didn’t consider it..”
He said the Northern Powerhouse Partnership has been campaigning alongside civic leaders and Transport for the North to build a Northern Powerhouse Rail project which could, for example, potentially connect Leeds with Manchester in 30 minutes.
He said: “But it’s also important that we connect people in Liverpool with people in Newcastle and people in Sheffield with Hull to Leeds and to Manchester; because this isn’t just about getting to one other city more quickly. “
He added: “This is about the economic geography of the North of England shrinking, so we start to behave more like a Chinese mega-city and less like a bunch of warring tribes, who see our competitors as being our neighbours rather than the people who we need to collaborate and work with to succeed in a global race.
“The work that Transport for the North have done economically is very powerful. They have projected that if you do deliver the Northern Powerhouse and you make it work..then that will generate you over 800,000 additional jobs by 2050.”
Mr Murison said research indicated that the North of England had four prime capabilities; in advanced manufacturing, digital, health innovation and energy.
He added: “What we are trying to do is work out at a pan-Northern level, not just what will drive these prime capabilities in Leeds and the Leeds City Region, but what we could do to join the dots across the North of England.”
Mr Murison delivered an upbeat assessment of Yorkshire’s economic prospects, citing a Lloyds Bank Regional Purchasing Managers’ Index survey, which showed that business activity in the region grew steeply in August.
The study found that the latest upturn in new orders was the strongest for three months and above the UK average.
The other speakers included Jonathan Oxley, the director of corporate finance at Lupton Fawcett LLP , who is the Institute of Directors’ regional lead on devolution and the Northern Powerhouse, Sherry Ward and Simon Renault from Omega Security Systems and Christine Robinson, the strategic projects manager at Leeds Beckett University.
The event was chaired by Greg Wright, The Yorkshire Post’s deputy business editor and sponsored by Ad:Venture, a project which helps to support high growth businesses from start-up to expansion.
The Partnership between The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Beckett University is helping to stimulate economic growth.
The Leeds Digital Hub is a tech office and co-working space which is run in partnership between Leeds Beckett University and The Yorkshire
Post. It is part of a network of Leeds Beckett University Business Centres which have been operating for more than 15 years.
More than 200 businesses across the region are currently located in the university’s private, shared and co-working spaces, which have
supported over 800 businesses to accelerate their growth.