Ralph Pickles, Vice Chair for the IOD in Yorkshire and the North East, said investment in “sunrise” industries could play a major role in delivering the Government’s levelling up agenda, but the North is still affected by decisions taken in the 1980s to focus on the City at the expense of Northern manufacturers.
Mr Pickles, who has held senior positions at ICI, Zeneca and Sensient Technologies and played a major role in developing the meat alternative Quorn, made the comments during a roundtable event on the theme of “levelling up” which was hosted by The Yorkshire Post and Turner & Townsend, the global consultancy business.
Mr Pickles, who chairs and invests in early stage companies, highlighted the impact on the North’s economy from the decline of British industry in the decades following the Second World War.
He told the event at Aspire in Leeds: “Levelling down has taken many decades and we can expect levelling up to take some time.
“British manufacturing industry after the Second World War was badly managed and suffered under investment. By the 1980s much of the northern manufacturing base was uneconomic and the feeling at the time appeared to be that all we needed was income from the City. Jobs disappeared, primarily from the North.
“At the IOD we feel there is a need to encourage more research and development support and in the sunrise industries in the North, because too much of it has been focused on the South. We need policies to encourage lifetime training and education in the skills needed in the next 20 years to encourage investment in the North.
“Transport infrastructure and connectivity also play an important role. Industry clusters drive growth in Silicon Valley and in Cambridge. The North is not sufficiently connected yet.”
Mr Pickles also questioned whether control of the NHS should be devolved to regional leaders.
“We all love the NHS, free at the point of care, but it is very inefficient, and also..the central Government can only allocate more money to it. Is regionalisation a solution? Should Yorkshire run its own NHS as Greater Manchester and Scotland do?.”
Mick Grace, a director of Turner & Townsend, said that it was “in Yorkshire people’s DNA” to tackle inequality and injustice.
“Your place of birth shouldn’t dictate the length or quality of your life.”
He said ‘levelling up’ was fundamentally about rebalancing long standing social and environmental divisions.
He added: “We have something unique in Yorkshire, but we want a level playing field. “
The Yorkshire Post and Turner & Townsend joined forces to bring key opinion leaders together to discuss the steps needed to make ‘levelling up’ a reality.
Mr Grace, who is a director and strategic lead for Turner & Townsend’s Leeds office, said :”Yorkshire is ready for investment and united on levelling up so let’s make change happen today.
“There was a huge amount of energy for this discussion and being together in person was a fantastic reminder of the passion that people have for this region and its communities."
"As a global business with its headquarters in Yorkshire, this event was great way to mark our 75th year.”
The event was chaired by Greg Wright, The Yorkshire Post's deputy business editor.