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CBI to turbocharge UK levelling up ambitions with launch of new clusters programme

Establishing successful clusters of industrial excellence to power economic growth in every region and nation is the only way to achieve sustainable prosperity and succeed in levelling up the UK. 

  • A fresh approach will crowd in private sector finance and expertise to drive regional economic growth – an antidote to the cost crisis
  • Roadshow of regional ‘Think Ins’ will gather insights from across the UK to inform a new digital playbook
  • Zero Carbon Humber named as CBI’s first ‘demonstrator cluster’ to understand journey from ‘good to great’

That is the view of the CBI, which yesterday (10 May) kicked off a pioneering regional programme designed to spur business growth and investment in all corners of the country.

The ambition – which utilises anchor institutions, from universities to keystone businesses, at the heart of regional economies to help attract investment and lead sector-related growth – is to enable every region and nation to build a unique and world-class competitiveness proposition.

CBI leaders will begin a series of high-level roadshow ‘think-ins’ – supported by Virgin Media O2 Business – which draw together expertise from industry, Government and academia to shape its Clusters Playbook, which will define the journey to cluster success and can be rolled out across the UK.

The CBI will partner with businesses in areas with strong cluster potential to support their journey from good to great.

The first of these demonstrator clusters will be the Humber industrial cluster, in partnership with Zero Carbon Humber – a consortium of leading energy and industrial firms and academic institutions. Their aim is to transform the Humber region into the UK’s first net-zero carbon cluster by 2040, as part of the wider East Coast decarbonisation cluster and wider economic growth opportunities in the Humber.

On the CBI’s clusters programme, CBI Director-General Tony Danker yesterday said:

“A core pillar of the CBI’s UK vision is for every nation and region to be globally competitive – this cannot be achieved by Government alone. Business innovation, expertise and finance will be essential components of a high growth, high productivity, high wage future economy.

“From automotive in the North East and West Midlands, to aerospace in the South West, and from the Holyhead Hydrogen Hub in Wales to the Golden Triangle of research and innovation in the South East, the UK is rich in clusters of excellence. These strengths create opportunities and enhance lives by equipping communities to forge and grow unique identities on the global stage.

“There is no escaping the squeeze on households and businesses. Firms are taking action but ultimately, an economy relentlessly striving to grow and become more productive is the best long-term solution to the cost-of-living crisis.

“A lot has been spoken about levelling up and the need for regional growth; now it is time to turn words into actions. The CBI’s clusters think-ins will begin the journey to grow UK clusters from good to great – and progress will accelerate rapidly from here.

“Business can be a powerful force for positive, lasting change, and this project will unleash its potential as the catalyst of renewed economic momentum.”

Zero Carbon Humber’s ambition to capture UK industrial emissions will be crucial if the country is to achieve net zero.

The CBI is supporting that goal by investing resources, expertise and convening power to crowd in private sector investment to drive growth – a formula which can be replicated in all parts of the country as a major contribution to levelling up.

On the Humber demonstrator cluster, CBI Director-General Tony Danker yesterday said:

“Decarbonising industry is not an option for reaching net zero – it is a necessity. And with nearly half of the UK’s industrial cluster emissions coming from Humber and Teesside, it is a site of immense national importance to our climate goals.

“Our new Thriving Regions & Nations steering committee will work closely with Zero Carbon Humber, plus other consortiums and broader stakeholders, over multiple years to work towards that target in what will the first of our trailblazer clusters.

“Clusters have the power to be a transformational play, uniting high value sectors, firms, skills and investment in a place. The CBI and Zero Carbon Humber are ready to signpost a road to prosperity which all UK regions and nations can follow.”

The CBI will be announcing further demonstrator cluster locations later this year.

The clusters ‘think-in’ events launch yesterday in London, where Tony will be joined by Science Minister George Freeman and Jo Bertram of Virgin Media O2 Business to answer key questions about how to shape a cluster and use it to deliver genuine economic growth.

They will involve an audience of influential people from business and the public sector in discussions about successful clusters in the UK and abroad, ways for business to get involved, and opportunities for investors.

In the weeks ahead, further events – in diverse locations from Glasgow, Birmingham and Cheltenham to Liverpool and Milton Keynes – will tackle other essential issues around skills, innovation, finance and leadership.

George Freeman MP, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, yesterday said:

"From aerospace to automotive, biotech to Cleantech, Newquay space port to Aberdeen clean energy, Southampton marine tech to North Wales nuclear and Warwick Robotics, the UK is home to a network of leading science, research and innovation clusters across the whole country.

“Growing these clusters is the best way to build an innovation economy for all. That’s why the CBI's programme – supporting every part of the UK to build a unique and world-class competitiveness proposition – will present an excellent framework for our Government focus on powering economic growth across the whole country through clusters. 

"This pioneering regional programme – starting with the NetZero cluster here in the Humber – will help deliver on our clear commitment to harness clusters as key to both strengthening our global science superpower role and supporting jobs and opportunity for all UK citizens.”

Richard Gwilliam, Head of Cluster Development at Drax, and Chair of the Humber Energy Board, yesterday said:  

“Decarbonising the Humber region will be critical if the UK is to reach net zero by 2050. The Zero Carbon Humber consortium demonstrates what can be achieved when businesses within a cluster work together.

“Drax’s bioenergy with carbon capture and storage project at our North Yorkshire power station will not only act as an anchor project for Zero Carbon Humber capturing 8 million tonnes of CO2 each year from 2030, it will also create and protect tens of thousands of jobs, helping harder to abate sectors to decarbonise, as well as supporting levelling up in the North.”

Jo Bertram, Managing Director, Business and Wholesale, at Virgin Media O2, yesterday said:

“As the CBI’s cluster programme kicks off, we’re very excited to have a seat at the table. As the UK’s connectivity champion, at Virgin Media O2 Business we’re already seeing that tech is a great enabler in the levelling up agenda: for businesses and for communities in all regions. We know that working together, the public and private sectors can achieve great things – and I’m looking forward to joining the discussion and to seeing the impact of the cluster programme as it rolls out.”


Original article link: https://www.cbi.org.uk/media-centre/articles/cbi-to-turbocharge-uk-levelling-up-ambitions-with-launch-of-new-clusters-programme/

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