DATE CHANGE: Green Growth in the Western Gateway – a powerhouse conference delayed until March 2022

Published 20th December 2021

The Western Gateway powerhouse partnership’s first conference, Green Growth in the Western Gateway – A powerhouse conference, has been rescheduled and will now take place on 8th March at the International Conference Centre Wales.

The conference is an opportunity for local business, academia and public sector leaders from Wales and England to come together and share ideas for how the area can build on its strengths.

It will focus how the area can create sustainable green growth, using local expertise and industry to develop new sources of green energy whilst creating new opportunities for local people.

More details to follow in the new year. Draft agenda available here.

Making South Wales and Western England the UK’s green energy powerhouse at large scale business conference

Published 2nd December 2021

National leaders from business, universities and government will gather next month at the ICC in Newport (20th January 2022) to discuss how they can work together to level up communities and reach net zero at the Western Gateway’s powerhouse partnership’s first conference.

Green growth in the Western Gateway – A powerhouse conference is being sponsored by Deloitte and will cover plans to create the UK’s first green energy super cluster as part of the national drive to reach net zero emissions. Participants will also discuss how the partnership can ensure that it reaches communities at risk of being left behind to create a fairer and greener society.

The Western Gateway powerhouse is the pan-regional partnership for South Wales and Western England and sits alongside the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine in driving investment outside of London.

Stretching from Swansea to Swindon, including the cities of Newport, Cardiff and Bristol, the partnership works to champion success, tackle shared problems and attract new opportunities for the 4.4 million people who live within its boundaries.

Katherine Bennett CBE, Chair of the Western Gateway powerhouse partnership, said: “I am delighted to be able to announce the agenda for our partnership’s first conference. Our communities are highly skilled, innovative and ready to power the UK’s ambitions to reach Net Zero and build back after the pandemic.
“This conference will give businesses and academia a chance to share ideas and kick start work to ensure we build on our strengths and realise our potential as the UK’s first green energy super cluster whilst levelling up local communities. If you think you could help to guide this discussion, why not register and take part.”

Cllr Toby Savage, South Gloucestershire Council leader and Vice Chair of the Western Gateway partnership, said: “Our combined area has great strengths across many high tech and renewable sectors. We want to put these to use to help level up communities across the union and help decarbonise the UK economy.
“I welcome our colleagues in business and academia to join this discussion with top industry experts to guide how we can best work together to deliver for our communities.”

Cllr Jane Mudd, Newport City Council leader and Vice Chair of the Western Gateway partnership, said: “Our Western Gateway partnership has been busy gathering evidence on the economic strengths of our area and how we can best put these to use. Now we’re ready to set forward our plan for how we act on those strengths to achieve results for the people who live there.
“It’s great to be able to welcome people back to Newport where we hosted the original launch of this powerhouse. I welcome our colleagues in business and academia on both sides of the Severn to take part and help steer this conversation as we look to create vital new opportunities and better connect our communities.”

Dave Tansley, UK Vice Chair at Deloitte, said: “Race to Net-Zero is a global issue that needs open collaboration across every level of government and business to make a difference to the communities we serve. Change can be achieved much quicker through utilising the skills and innovation available and working closely with the specialists we already have in the region. Deloitte is thrilled to be supporting the inaugural Western Gateway conference to connect the key players in this space and help drive the discussion to shape future goals and a strategy for the benefit of all.”

The agenda is here. Already due to speak at the event are leaders from Innovate UK, the British Business Bank, Airbus, Bristol Airport and developments such as the Blue Eden project in Swansea and the Golden Valley in Cheltenham.

Opportunity to represent research and innovation for the Western Gateway

Published 16th November 2021

Date announced for Western Gateways first conference

Published 1st November 2021

Severn Edge bid makes shortlist for potential new home of UK’s fusion plant

Image showing a hand holding a lightbulb demonstrating energy

The government announcement means that the Severn Edge nomination to develop the UK’s first prototype plant is now one of five sites through to the next phase of the national selection process.

If successful, the Severn Edge nomination could be given the go-ahead by the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy by the end of next year.

Today’s decision on the selection process could pave the way for the fusion plant along with an associated ecology of R&D facilities, businesses and training facilities to be created at Oldbury in South Gloucestershire and Berkeley in Gloucestershire.

The prototype plant could lead to thousands of highly skilled jobs being created across the region. It would also have a massive impact on economic regeneration across a vast area – stretching from Cornwall to the West Midlands and Wales and including priority areas in the government’s Levelling Up Fund agenda, such as Gloucester, the Forest of Dean and Stroud.

Its far-reaching benefits would not only raise employment and prosperity in disadvantaged areas but also regenerate two former nuclear power sites, which could lie dormant for years without this initiative.

Severn Edge is the site where the STEP programme – Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production – could be built to support the UK’s transformation to a low carbon economy. It is targeting operations around 2040.

Katherine Bennett, Chair of the Western Gateway partnership, said: “It’s fantastic to see the government honouring the commitments to prioritise the hosting of a STEP fusion site on merit. We truly believe that the Western Gateway geography offers an unrivalled breadth of skills, supply chain and technology to deliver this pioneering approach to renewable energy.

“I am very excited about the next phase of work with UKAEA, as we continue the assessment process and work together towards a hugely significant piece of infrastructure for the region and for the UK.”

Andy Bates, of Nuclear South West, the industry body powered by Business West, said: “We believe that our Severn Edge nomination is very strong scientifically and technically. We have an incredible scientific and engineering base here, with high temperature expertise being a particular strength. We are also one of the leading regions in digital and digital design, which will be crucial to the success of STEP.”

The Severn Edge team believe that the site’s proximity to the Culham Centre for Fusion Technology in Oxfordshire will be an added advantage in the final selection process.

“Culham is just 60 miles away and is the beating heart of fusion technology in the UK”, said Andy Bates, ”and we see Severn Edge as the lungs in that fusion body. These are very exciting times for this region.”

Professor Tom Scott, one of the Severn Edge nomination team and co-director of the South West Nuclear Hub at the University of Bristol, said: “The region has a vibrant supply chain and base for building nuclear reactors as well as all the leftover expertise in high temperature materials. So, we have the site and the skilled people to deliver this fantastic world-leading project that will ‘Level Up’ for the South West and wider geography in terms of jobs and prosperity.”

Writing in the government’s new Fusion Strategy, George Freeman, MP, Under Secretary of State, Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, says: “Fusion could be the ultimate clean power solution, representing a low carbon, safe, continuous and sustainable source of energy. This is not science fiction but science fact.”

There was another strong bid within the Western Gateway area at Aberthaw in South Wales which had passed the ‘showstopper stage’ to make the previous shortlist of 15. It is disappointing that this site has not progressed for final assessment.

The Western Gateway Partnership is nevertheless ambitious about an expanded programme of work in decarbonisation to net zero and will be working closely with partners to ensure they can still make the best use of this and other key sites into the future.

Western Gateway recruiting for Senior Policy and Public Affairs Manager to support development of the Partnership

An exciting opportunity has arisen for an experienced policy and public affairs manager to support the development of the Western Gateway partnership. Leading on policy and public affairs activities, you will help build the partnership’s profile and reputation with a wide range of stakeholders, and produce robust research and evidence that focuses on the tangible benefits of acceleration of our economic geography. You will work closely with both the Chair and Director of the Western Gateway, alongside political leaders, business and universities from across the region.

This post is one of 5 jobs which form the secretariat of the Western Gateway partnership, and is based in Bristol.

This is an agile post, with an expectation of travel (Covid-19 permitting) across the Western Gateway area.

A job description and further details to apply can be found on Bristol City Council’s Job Search Portal here.

Western Gateway appoints new Director

The Western Gateway Partnership is delighted to announce the appointment of Jo Dally as its first Director, as of Monday 2nd August 2021.

Jo joins the Western Gateway as it steps up activities to put the Partnership on the map as the UK’s first cross-border powerhouse. As Director, Jo will work with partners to harness the area’s unique strengths, boost economic growth, and ensure the Partnership has a voice both nationally and internationally.

Before joining the Western Gateway, Jo held senior leadership roles in both the public and private sector, including BP’s Regions, Cities and Solutions segment, the Royal Society, and the UK Government Office of Science. She also serves as a Trustee for The Charity for Civil Servants and the UK Research Integrity Office.

Jo Dally said:

“I am delighted to have been appointed as Director of the Western Gateway Partnership.  I look forward to working with partners to build a vibrant powerhouse that creates opportunities and delivers pioneering projects for its people and places.”

Katherine Bennett, Chair of the Western Gateway  said:

“I’m delighted Jo has accepted the role of Director for the Western Gateway, where she will further our aspirations and objectives with her vast knowledge and background.

We have now firmly established the Board, have strengthened relationships with partners and Governments either side of the Severn, and are ready to focus on key projects and workstreams. Jo will be a great benefit to the Western Gateway moving forward.”

Western Gateway Searching for Communications and Marketing Manager to support development of the Partnership

An exciting opportunity has arisen for an experienced communications and marketing manager to support the development of the Western Gateway partnership – an economic ‘powerhouse’ spanning Western England and South Wales.

The role will be the communications lead for the partnership, working closely with the Chair of the Western Gateway, political leaders, business and universities from across the region. The role will build the partnership’s digital and media profile and support the growing reputation of the Western Gateway. The role will also be responsible for media relations, growing the website and social media presence, branding and strategic communications

This post will join the small five-person secretariat of the Western Gateway partnership. This is an agile post, with an expectation of travel (Covid-19 permitting) across the Western Gateway area.

A job specification and further details to apply can be found here.

Western Gateway Searching for Director to support development of the Partnership

A new opportunity has arisen for an exceptional Director to support the development of the Western Gateway Partnership. Reporting to the Partnership Board, the postholder will work closely with key stakeholders within the Western Gateway- including businesses, local and central government agencies in England and Wales and universities from across the area- to mobilise engagement, economic growth and investment.

The role will have responsibility for co-ordinating the Western Gateway Partnership’s strategic agenda, key priorities and programmes to ensure the Partnership can maximise the potential economic growth opportunities of the area.

This is an outstanding opportunity to make a real difference in a unique cross border enterprise that combines the expertise, resources and innovation of strategic partners from industry, public sector and academia. If you are passionate about making a positive impact in the prosperity for the area and the people in it, then we’d love to hear from you.

A job specification and further details to apply can be found here.

Western Gateway Appoints Three New Independent Business Board Members

The Western Gateway Partnership is delighted to announce the appointment of three Independent Business Representatives to join its Partnership Board, to further champion the voice of business across our area.

New Board Members Lhosa Daly (Assistant Director Operations, National Trust), Ian Edwards (Chief Executive Officer, The Celtic Collection & ICC Wales), and Ben Pritchard (Associate Director, Arup), will help deliver the strategic objectives of the Western Gateway. The three new business members will join a dynamic Board Chaired by Katherine Bennett CBE, Senior Vice-President of Airbus and soon to be CEO of the High-Value Manufacturing Catapult.

Lhosa Daly is a leader in the arts, with a diverse spectrum of experiences across Western England and South Wales including art, heritage, conservation organisations and global multinational companies. A lawyer, director, and consultant with a proven track record at providing analysis, solutions and successful change, Lhosa brings a passionate desire to nourish talent and create long term, sustainable success.

Lhosa said:

“I am delighted to be an inaugural business member of the board, as successful delivery of the Western Gateway ambitions is important to me and National Trust Cymru, as they will benefit not only our visitor business, but also our commercial operations, working environment, agricultural and let estate businesses and wider community “

Ian Edwards was appointed to a dual role of Chief Executive of The Celtic Collection & International Convention Centre Wales in 2017, where he established a joint venture with Welsh Government to open the ICC Wales in 2019. The venue will transform Wales and the south-west of the UK as a destination for business events. Ian has a number of other complementary roles across the Hospitality & Tourism sectors, a wealth of experience advising Government on key issues, and is a visiting Professor at University of South Wales.

Ian said:

“The Western Gateway Partnership represents an exciting opportunity for us to break down traditional borders and barriers, and bring together our common objectives to build a prosperous future for this entire area and develop a true regional powerhouse. The business events opportunity brought about by the creation of ICC Wales is just one example of the potential we have to drive economic growth across the region and I look forward to working with fellow board members, partners and stakeholders to develop the cohesive strategies that will maximise this.”

Ben Pritchard is a senior leader in the Wales & West region of global engineering and design consultancy Arup. He has led multidisciplinary teams on major infrastructure and development projects across the region, as well as nationally and internationally. Ben works closely with governments and their agencies in Wales and England to achieve strategic aims, secure funding and develop delivery requirements for transportation, development, investment and value realisation.

Ben said:

“The Western Gateway partnership represents an important opportunity to create inclusive growth and achieve a greener, more sustainable future for our area. Low carbon energy, world-class infrastructure and connectivity, integrated transport and a focus on social value all have a part to play. I’m looking forward to working with my fellow board members; concerted joint action will be essential for achieving our ambition.”

Katherine Bennett CBE, Chair of the Western Gateway, said:

“These three outstanding appointments give great depth and credibility to the Western Gateway as a public and private sector partnership. Lhosa, Ian and Ben all presented a compelling passion for the Western Gateway area when they met our Panel and they all offer something different at a critical time for the Partnership.

We have now firmly established the Board, have cemented relationships with partners and Governments either side of the Severn, and are ready to focus on key projects and workstreams for which we want a loud business voice engaged in the process and demanding further investment. I can’t wait to get them immersed in our work.”

Independent report sets out recommendations for economic success in the Western Gateway

A new report published today highlights cyber technology, advanced manufacturing, renewable energy and the green economy as sectors than can drive economic recovery and growth across south Wales and west England. It recommends that a priority focus should be raising productivity levels to above average, and that land, buildings and people currently unemployed or underemployed are brought back with renewed purpose.

The independent report ‘Western Gateway Economic Position Statement’, was commissioned by the Western Gateway Partnership and produced by Oxford Economics and Hardisty Jones Associates. To make the most of the opportunities available to the Western Gateway it must now identify clear objectives and measures of success.  It’s recommended that this forms part of the next stage of the Western Gateway Independent Economic Review.

It also notes that the current geography of the Western Gateway works well in economic terms. At present the Western Gateway Partnership stretches from Swansea in the west to Swindon in the east and from Salisbury in the south to Cheltenham in the north. The partnership area covers a population of 4.4m people and includes nine ports and major road, rail and air transport routes.

Katherine Bennett CBE, Chair of the Western Gateway said:

““The first phase of our Independent Economic Review provides an excellent foundation and evidence base for our work in the Western Gateway. It sets a clear direction to ensure we enhance our strengths, build on our reputation as a great place to live and work, and ready ourselves to address both the major challenges we collectively face to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate emergency.”

Richard Holt, Head of Global Cities Research at Oxford Economics, said:

“The Western Gateway is one of the UK’s most promising regions, with great strength in modern technologies and excellent universities. If partners can pull together and build on what each part offers the others, it can achieve faster growth for the benefit of all residents.”

Stuart Hardisty, Director at Hardisty Jones Associates, said:

“It was clear, in speaking to many partners and stakeholders, that the partnership is maturing and there is a strong desire to build momentum, capitalising on the key sector strengths and opportunities across the Western Gateway. Grappling with how to deliver sustainable and inclusive improvements for the whole area, as well as identifying where to collaborate with other partnerships will be the next phase.”

A second phase of the independent economic review will be conducted during Spring/Summer 2021, and will include a series of in-depth analysis of the strengths and opportunities identified in the Western Gateway to deliver clean, green and inclusive growth.

Western Gateway powerhouse announces new board members

Representatives of two of the country’s leading universities have joined the board of the Western Gateway Partnership to support efforts to ignite economic recovery and growth across south Wales and west England.

Professor Julie Lydon OBE, Vice-Chancellor, and Chief Executive of the University of South Wales, and Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor, and President of the University of Bristol, will join other members of the Western Gateway Partnership Board in their collective effort in propelling a greener, fairer, stronger Britain.

Professor Julie Lydon OBE is Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of South Wales, a position she has held since 2010. She has also held the role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic Development) since joining the University in 2006. Julie is highly experienced in academic leadership including merger, and is passionate about widening access to education, developing collaborative industry partnerships and quality. Professor Lydon is currently Chair of Universities Wales, and a board member of Universities UK, University Alliance, National Council for Universities and Businesses, CBI Wales and Newport Economic Network.

Professor Julie Lydon OBE, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of South Wales, said:

“Universities are well placed to support economic and social development, producing future generations of work-ready, skilled graduates. Our staff and students are also at the heart of driving innovation with applied research and solutions, that are making a positive difference now and for the future. Everything that we do at USW is aimed at collaboration and partnerships, and therefore I am very much looking forward to working as part of the Western Gateway to explore how our collective efforts can drive long-lasting benefits for the region.” 

Professor Hugh Brady is Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bristol, a role he has held since 2015. Previously serving as President of University College of Dublin from 2004 to 2013.

Professor Brady trained in general medicine and nephrology and was awarded PhD and MD degrees for research in renal physiology and molecular medicine respectively. His academic career as a physician-scientist included positions at Harvard Medical School, the University of Toronto and UCD. Since coming to Bristol, Professor Brady has led an institution-wide strategic planning process, which has yielded both a new Vision and Strategy for the University.

Professor Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bristol, said:

“As a global civic university, Bristol is committed to working with local partners to benefit the people who live, work or visit our region. In this spirit, I’m delighted to join the Partnership Board and look forward to supporting the Western Gateway secure its place on the international research, development and business investment stage.” 

Katherine Bennett CBE, Chair of the Western Gateway, said:

“I am delighted to announce the appointment of two new members to the Western Gateway Partnership Board. Julie and Hugh bring with them new expertise and experience from both sides of the Severn. Their presence, guidance and advice will play an integral part in ensuring the partnership continues in its role in driving green sustainable growth across the region.” 

The Western Gateway / Porth y Gorllewin launched in November 2019, with a focus on inclusive and clean economic growth where scale and collaboration achieves more for people then its constituent parts can achieve individually. The collective efforts of the Western Gateway Partnership Board will unleash the regions full potential and blaze the trail for the UK’s next generation economy.

Western Gateway recruits for two independent business board members

The Western Gateway Partnership is recruiting two business representatives to join its Partnership Board. The successful candidates will help deliver the strategic objectives of the Western Gateway and will champion the Western Gateway Partnership through engagement with Government, the business sector and industry. Business representatives are asked to apply by 28 March 2021.

The two new business members will join a dynamic Board Chaired by Katherine Bennett CBE, Senior Vice-President of Airbus and soon to be CEO of the High-Value Manufacturing Catapult. The Board include Local Authority partners, the West of England Combined Authority, the Cardiff Capital Region, three Local Enterprise Partnerships and two Higher Education representatives.

Katherine Bennett CBE, Chair of the Western Gateway said:

“The Western Gateway has some fantastic businesses and this is an opportunity to ensure their voices are represented at a strategic level. Businesses are hugely important in delivering our ambitions as a Partnership and will add valuable expertise to our Board. I am looking forward to working with the successful applicants over the next two years.”  

Interested business representatives can find further details about the role by clicking here.

First cross-border ‘powerhouse’ the Western Gateway / Porth y Gorllewin launches new website and prospectus

A new economic partnership across south Wales and western England which aims to boost local economies by working together launches a new website and prospectus today. The Western Gateway, launched by Cabinet Ministers in November 2019, is the UK’s third powerhouse after the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine.

The Western Gateway is a partnership of eight strong cities alongside rural communities in a wide economic area. The Western Gateway, however, goes one step further than the ‘regional’ powerhouses formed to date. The Western Gateway stretches across south Wales as well as western England so is cross-border.

All partners intend to focus on inclusive and clean economic growth, where scale and collaboration can achieve more for the people and the wider economies of countries involved than our constituent parts could achieve alone.

A new prospectus for the Western Gateway outlines the emerging vision and the key ambitions for the economic partnership.  The prospectus has been developed through discussions between the partnership’s local authorities, businesses, LEPs and city regions. It sets out the scale of the Western Gateway’s ambitions and identifies the emerging strategic priorities of:

  •                connectivity
  •                innovation; and
  •                 a co-ordinated international approach to trade and investment.

Delivering this vision will add more than £56bn to the UK economy by 2030 and help us achieve a net zero future.

Chair of the Western Gateway, and SVP for Airbus in the UK, Katherine Bennett CBE, said:

“Our prospectus is one that will deliver the economic boost the region requires to maximise its potential. It provides an insight into the journey we are undertaking together with businesses, industry and authorities, determined to deliver growth from Swansea to Swindon and Cheltenham to Weston.”

 The Western Gateway prospectus comes ahead of a full vision document for the partnership, following the completion of an Independent Economic Review later in 2020 that will provide an evidence base across the countries, area and regions of the partnership. Across Britain the economic map is being reshaped by devolution and regional powerhouses.

Visit and read our prospectus at:

Cross-border Western Gateway will form new ‘powerhouse’ in UK economy

From L-R: Secretary Alun Cairns (Wales), Katherine Bennett (Airbus) and Secretary Robert Jenrick (MHCLG)

From L-R: Secretary Alun Cairns (Wales), Katherine Bennett (Airbus) and Secretary Robert Jenrick (MHCLG)

Western Gateway launched at ICC Wales

The pooling of cross-border skills and expertise on both sides of the Severn estuary can drive prosperity for the region, Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns and Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick will say today (1 November) at an event to launch the Western Gateway.

The Western Gateway is a strategic partnership promoting and maximising economic growth across south Wales and the west of England to create jobs, boost prosperity and support the world-renowned universities and businesses of the region.

Linking a number of towns and cities across a wide region either side of the Severn the Western Gateway will mirror the successful, established work of the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine and will seek to ensure that the region is globally competitive.

At the ICC in Newport, Mr Cairns and Mr Jenrick will tell an audience of partners from business, education, cultural and digital sectors that the Western Gateway has the potential to transform the economic prospects of the region, making it easier to do business, to increase inward investment and tourism and create jobs.

Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick is providing £400,000 from existing budgets for start-up funding to kick-start the partnership.

Katherine Bennett, Senior Vice President of Airbus, will be announced as the first acting chair of the Western Gateway, who will lead and shape the governance, management and initial priorities for the partnership.

Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns will say:

The Western Gateway will provide an arena for the joint strengths of two neighbouring areas with distinct identities and traditions to be harnessed.

South Wales and the west of England already form a natural economic region with excellent transport networks in road and rail and well-established links in business, industry and education.

The region can be a true powerhouse of the UK economy if we take this opportunity to galvanise its many strengths to generate ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship in order to stimulate jobs and growth.

It also highlights how our United Kingdom is strengthened by maximising and harnessing in partnership the skills and talents of our nations and regions.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP will say:

The Western Gateway will draw on the diverse talents of both sides of the Severn to deliver an economic powerhouse that will drive growth throughout the region.

Already a major centre for cyber and tech, research, manufacturing and the creative industries – there’s clearly huge potential for them to achieve even greater things together.

As this Government works to level up our regional economies, this initiative will give south west England and south Wales a powerful voice, just as the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine have done for those areas.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid added:

Today we are announcing an exciting partnership to turbo charge growth across Wales and the south west of England.

The Western Gateway is full of bustling towns and cities and boasts a rich cultural and industrial history – from the famous cheeses of Cheddar Gorge and iconic Roman Baths of Bath, to the thriving TV industry of Cardiff Bay.

We won’t rest until we have unlocked the potential this region has to offer as we level-up opportunities across the UK.

Katherine Bennett CBE, Western Gateway Chair, will say:

With a vibrant population of more than four million people, world-class universities, strong transport links, and shared strengths across key sectors – from green energy and engineering, to the arts and digital media – I’m convinced that the west of Britain is a powerhouse waiting to happen.

By working together, across government, academia, and industry, with businesses at the core, we are determined to make this vision a reality.

Following Friday’s launch event in Newport, Mr Cairns and Mr Jenrick will visit Bristol enterprise hub the Engine Shed, where they will meet owners and staff of some of the innovative businesses based there.

New report highlights the next UK powerhouse “waiting to happen”

Published 8 Jul 2019

Great Western Cities partnership presents report to Westminster

The potential for a new economic powerhouse for the UK was unveiled today, with a new report setting out recommendations to supercharge the economy in the west of Britain.

The Powerhouse for the West report, commissioned by the Great Western Cities partnership of Bristol City Council, Cardiff Council and Newport City Council, was presented to senior politicians, business and education leaders today at the House of Lords. The event was hosted by Lord Bob Kerslake of the UK2070 Commission.

The report, by Metro Dynamics, provides a strong evidence base for a cross-border partnership, presenting recommendations that would drive improved infrastructure, investment, internationalisation and inclusive growth across a region of seven cities, 4.4m people, with 10 universities, 156,000 businesses and a £107bn economy.

Five key areas of collaboration are highlighted:

  • an industrial strategy linking sector strengths;
  • integrating road and rail improvements to enable faster connectivity;
  • an internationalisation strategy which promotes the region’s industrial strengths;
  • establishing a productivity and innovation observatory which makes better use of our data;
  • piloting and measuring tailored approaches to connecting the most deprived communities with the region’s highest growth sectors.

Cllr Debbie Wilcox, Leader of Newport City Council, said: “The opportunities that a powerhouse could capitalise and enrich are vast. The region already has an economy worth £107bn, which is 10% higher than the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine, yet our growth is slower than average. If we only grow to meet the UK average, we will become a £1.21bn economy – just think of the potential if this powerhouse was created.”

The potential powerhouse – which is yet to adopt a formal name – would stretch along the M4 corridor from Swindon and across the Welsh border to Cardiff and Swansea, and in the north from Gloucester and Cheltenham to Bath and Bristol. To support this venture the Great Western City partners have already been joined by Bath and North East Somerset Council, Gloucestershire County Council, Swansea Council and Swindon Borough Council.

The report sets out a plan to turbo-charge growth in the region, not economic rebalancing, and puts a focus on developing key strengths to stimulate that growth.

With already strong transport links that include two major arteries running across the entirety of the region (the M4 and Great Western Rail Line) intersected by the M5, the proposed powerhouse is uniquely positioned to develop and support trade growth in a way which could be complementary to existing local and regional strategies.

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, said: “Our ultimate vision is to create a serious, long-term, cross-border partnership. We already export £18.4bn of goods and £11bn of services every year – we want to further promote our excellent trade and investment opportunities by developing an internationalisation strategy. In a post-Brexit world export based growth will be of huge importance to economic development and this collaboration has the potential to ensure this region competes with high growth regions around the world.

“Achieving this will mean unblocking the bottlenecks across the M4 and M5; connecting people and communities in our most deprived areas with skills and employment opportunities.”

The area already has unique strengths in advanced engineering, creative and digital media, finance and professional services. The report also highlights how growth areas around clean energy and health and life sciences would benefit it further.

Huw Thomas, Leader of Cardiff Council said: “This is just the start of the conversation and our next step will be to set up a leadership vehicle to shape this initiative and drive it forward.

“This report talks about complementing rather than competing with existing strategies and partnerships. We would be developing a partnership between public and private sectors across this seven cities region, with representatives from local enterprise partnerships, businesses and universities and with the backing of national government.”