The Solent LEP has initially welcomed the Government's announcement of a £1.7 billion Transforming Cities Fund that will improve transport links and promote local growth within city regions, placing cities at the heart of the national industrial strategy and additional funding to raise the value of the National Productivity Investment Fund to £31bn. The LEP has also initially welcomed the announcement of £44bn investment in the form of loans, grants and guarantees to tackle housing challenges, including the delivery of infrastructure to unlock strategic sites and introducing planning reforms on the basis that the Government has confirmed that these will ensure more land is available for housing, and that better use is made of underused land in cities and towns.
Solent LEP Chairman Gary Jeffries said:
"The Solent is regarded as a world-leader in a range of industries, yet raising productivity levels remains a long standing challenge. Following the announcement of additional funding from Government today, it is our expectation that this will be followed by a commitment to ensure the benefits of these investments are felt across all parts of the country, including areas such as the Solent which have all too often been overlooked, despite our continued positive contribution to UK plc. Connectivity is critical to the future growth of the Solent economy. Transport connects people to jobs and products to markets, it underpins supply chains and logistics networks, and it is fundamental to domestic and international trade. The connectivity, condition and capacity of our transport network is therefore critical for improving productivity and increasing wealth creation. The impact of the housing challenge is also particularly concentrated in the Solent and, alongside significant investment to modernise our transport system and connect our two great cities, a housing deal for the area is needed to help realise a dynamic new Solent growth corridor. We will be engaging with Government in the weeks ahead to seek assurances the Solent area will no longer be overlooked for investments like these."
Alongside the Transforming Cities Fund, the Solent LEP has also welcomed the announcement of an extra investment of £2.3 billion in 2021/22 in R&D.
The Solent LEP is already prioritising investment in projects that will ensure the Solent remains future facing for years to come and has invested over £8m to date across a range of projects which will bring forward new research, ideas and start-up businesses in the Solent, including the new Future Technology Centre at the University of Portsmouth, next phase of expansion at Fareham Innovation Centre, the UKs first maritime autonomous systems testing facility and UKs first dedicated Centre for Cancer Immunology.
Building on this strong track record of investing in innovation, the Solent LEP has recently made £500,000 funding available for projects at the University of Southampton capitalising on the growing potential of the Web through the new Z21 Innovation Fund: a collaboration between the University of Southampton and the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). The fund is inviting applications from within the University of Southampton for web-related research projects and early stage commercial initiatives that can be accelerated towards commercialisation and angel funding. Web-based startup projects will be supported towards success with expertise, facilities and support from a network of mentors connected with the University.
Anne-Marie Mountifield, Chief Executive of Solent LEP, said:
“The Solent economy has seen the emergence of new ideas and innovation in the past few years which has underpinned the growth of the Solent economy as a whole. Among the factors underpinning this are the strong knowledge assets of our three universities and range of private sector-led research institutes. With these world-leading assets and capabilities, the Solent is in a commanding position to take a lead role in the technology revolution and is in pole position to take advantage of the additional Government funding announced for R&D. It is now our expectation that the Government will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Solent area to give it the certainty and resources it needs to build on our outstanding track record of success and grow our future facing economy."
We also look forward to the launch of the Industrial Strategy next Monday and we will continues to work with business, academia and the public sector in the Solent area to shape our future and support the industries in the Solent where we have a competitive edge. The LEP will be coming forward with a new economic strategy during 2018 which will respond to the Industrial Strategy when published and set out in more detail its future investment priorities.