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Solent Summit unveils vision for the region's future and the launch of the Solent Freeport

13 June 2022

Business and community leaders, potential investors, education providers, local government and other interested parties came together to learn more about the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership's (LEP) ambitions for the region, and the opportunities that collaboration will bring through the Solent Freeport, at the Solent Summit on Wednesday 8 June.

Held at the Associated British Ports sustainable Horizon Cruise Terminal in Southampton, speakers included inspirational British sailor Dee Caffari MBE, the Chair of the Solent Freeport, Brian Johnson, and the Chair of the Solent LEP, Rachael Randall.

Over 300 guests attended the event, with a further 200 joining online, to learn more about the Freeport and the opportunities that will act as a catalyst for an innovation revolution in maritime, autonomy and green growth. It will provide a centre of excellence in green skills and jobs to ensure local communities, and in particular our young people, will benefit.
The Solent LEP's long term economic strategy: Solent 2050 was launched alongside the Freeport, along with two major funding opportunities to support business prosperity in the region: the SME Priority Sectors Loan Fund and the Solent Prosperity Loan Fund.

Alastair Welch, Associated British Ports’ Southampton Director, says: “It was a great pleasure to host the Solent Summit and introduce stakeholders to the Freeport at what is a really pivotal time for our region. The Solent region is home to the UK’s most important trade gateway and has a good deal more potential to unlock. The Solent Freeport will be a catalyst for this.”

Rachael Randall, Chair of the Solent LEP, said: "We were delighted to have an opportunity to share our vision for the region's future prosperity with all those who came to the Solent Summit, and to develop collaborative networks that will support the vision to become a reality. Our Solent 2050 strategy outlines how we will work with partners to level up our region, create jobs, drive innovation, and ensure a prosperous economy, providing opportunities for all communities and, in particular, our young people."

The Solent 2050 Strategy was reinforced by a series of afternoon seminars from partner organisations, highlighting the importance of the region's unique natural capital and the role of universities in amplifying innovation and developing the skills and talent of those living in the region to translate into career opportunities.

Brian Johnson, Chair of the Solent Freeport, who also spoke at the event, said: “The Solent Freeport will be a key component of the Solent 2050 long-term economic strategy. It will unlock billions of pounds' worth of investment, create tens of thousands of new jobs and play a critical role in achieving national levelling up ambitions."

The event was hosted by the BBC's Political Editor Peter Henley. Guest speaker Dee Caffari MBE spoke passionately about the Solent region, and how all sectors must work together to achieve the various goals highlighted at the event, whilst caring for the natural assets that the Solent is blessed with.

Dee said: “Managed collaboration is a recipe for success and this launch illustrates the potential we have in the region. We must be mindful that this benefits everyone, increasing access and opportunity for all, leaving a legacy that endures and a hopeful outlook for future generations.”

The funding opportunities offered by the new SME Priority Sectors Loan Fund and the Solent Prosperity Loan Fund aim to support growth, strengthen skills provision, and create jobs in the Solent's core sectors, including Maritime; Advanced Manufacturing; Transport and Logistics; Leisure, Hospitality and Tourism; Healthcare and Medicine; Greentech; Creative and Cultural; Aerospace and Retail.

The funds will also support the transition to Net Zero in the Solent for businesses in these core sectors and the Prosperity Loan Fund aims to enable new infrastructure to unlock development.

To watch a recording of the Solent Summit event, click here.

For more information about the Solent Summit, Solent 2050, and the new SME Priority Sectors Loan Fund and the Solent Prosperity Loan Fund, visit our Solent Summit page.

For more info on the Solent Freeport go to the Solent Freeport website

Prosperity Loan and SME Priority Sectors Loan Funds

Loans for large projects, and for SMEs and entrepreneurs, that will support our 2050 vision, ambitions and aspirations of those working and living in the region. Click on this link where you will find a tab for each of the Loans.

Find out more