SOUTH YORKSHIRE WELCOMES BUSINESS LEADERS AND INNOVATORS AT THE REGION’S FIRST EVER ECONOMIC SUMMIT
Published 14 March 2022 at 4:30pm
Growth and economic renewal were the two key themes for the first South Yorkshire Economic Summit held in Sheffield recently (9th March), which was attended by over 160 business leaders, academics and innovators.
Keynote speakers were Andy Haldane, Head of the Government’s Levelling Up Taskforce, South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis MP MBE, and Lucy Nickson, Chair of the South Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
The landmark Summit explored the huge potential and opportunities for South Yorkshire and how the focus needs to be on building a skills and talent system that underpins economic transformation and the introduction of a new finance system that unlocks institutional, commercial, equity and community development finance in South Yorkshire.
Andy Haldane, the Head of the UK Government’s Levelling Up Taskforce, said: “This region is built on a fantastic industrial heritage and has great theatres, universities, wonderful countryside and strong connectivity. There are clusters of innovation and activity, but still the region is falling behind - South Yorkshire has a lower number of SME businesses than comparable regions in the north. The challenge is therefore to encourage more new business start-ups across the region and to break down the barriers to finance, to enable established businesses to grow and move to the next level.”
South Yorkshire Mayor Dan Jarvis gave his reflections on the current opportunities in this region,
he said: “The region is working well together, with strong collaborations between the private sector and the universities on some ground-breaking projects in energy, decarbonisation and digital. When businesses, innovators and academics collaborate like this, great things happen. South Yorkshire is the heartland of innovation and we have an amazing story to tell: one rooted in our proud heritage, with optimism and ambition for our future. To fully realise South Yorkshire’s potential we now need to support business growth, raise skills and mobilise finance to unlock the dazzling, brilliant potential of our people, of our enterprises, of our economy. We can and must do so – creating a stronger, greener, fairer South Yorkshire for all.”
He also officially announced details of the South Yorkshire Sustainability Centre, which will bring together researchers, businesses and organisations across the region to co-design solutions to regional and global sustainability challenges and work towards net zero emissions by 2050.
Lucy Nickson, Chair of the South Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, focused on the commitments made in the LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan which aims to improve the lives of South Yorkshire residents. She talked about how the LEP is committed to establishing a South Yorkshire Innovation Board to meet the challenges that South Yorkshire faces head on. The Board will focus on making more of our existing assets, to grow further the translational research offer and to develop new business support programmes to stimulate networks and collaboration and to shift perceptions locally, nationally and internationally about the potential of South Yorkshire’s economy.
Following the keynote speeches, the summit consisted of a series of panel discussions, covering the challenges South Yorkshire faces, the opportunities and the wider political and economic climate.
South Yorkshire innovators, including business leaders from ITM Power, The Floow, Twinkl, TES, UKAEA, AWRC, TES, Digital Media Centre, AMRC and the Ultimate Battery Company showcased the many business success stories that are happening in South Yorkshire and how businesses can overcome barriers to continued growth and prosperity.
Delegates were given an introduction to Bank North, heralded as a new way to finance business investment in the North of England, by Ron Emerson, the bank’s chairman. He said: "We're setting up the first truly regional bank in what we believe is 100 years. We're creating pods in different cities and communities where SMEs can approve a deal in weeks and get better access to finance!"
A panel discussion was held involving Keynote speaker Ron Emerson, Ian Stuart, CEO HSBC British Bank, Ken Cooper, Managing Director of Venture Solutions at British Business Bank and Richard Taylor from the Business Growth Fund, with roaming contributions from the floor including Duncan Johnson, CEO of Northern Gritstone, Chris Iveson – CEO of Fourlaw Manufacturing and Andrew Austwick, CEO of Finance for Enterprise.
"In a year's time I hope that the Business Growth Fund statistics are better in South Yorkshire and we have invested in more businesses in the region." Richard Taylor, Head of Growth at the Business Growth Fund.
Ian Stuart explained how we fuel and finance across South Yorkshire, adding that it’s been a difficult time for SMEs but there is growth. "I want people to feel safe to export. I want HSBC to help people do this and give oxygen to business."
"I would like new industry to be set up here in South Yorkshire. Firstly we need to know what these industries are! Cyber Security, Energy, Wealth Transfer, Metaverse, Gaming, - these are the gaps we have in the UK - can South Yorkshire close them?" he asked.
Ken Cooper, Managing Director - Venture Solutions at British Business Bank said: "We are in the design and implementation phase of creating and distributing more funds for the North, at the end of the year. We have fund managers across the regions to help with this."
Contributions also came from the Creative & Digital Industries sector – Tracey Johnson said: "We need everyone to think about how we can encourage collaboration, creating the right spaces and opportunities for difficult conversations around investment and how we can do things better."
Showing how South Yorkshire needs to invest in its young people, Sir Stephen Houghton, Leader of Barnsley Council, said: “Enriching young people’s lives will help to enrich their family’s lives, their communities and in turn support with levelling up. It’s not just about infrastructure, it’s about people.”
On the skills agenda and partnerships with academia, Dame Julie Kenny DBE DL, said: “One of my biggest takeaways from today is that there is more collaboration between universities, colleges and education organisations in our region than ever before. That’s hugely positive – it shows the significance of collaboration.”
For details of support for business growth available in South Yorkshire, visit the South Yorkshire Growth Hub www.scrgrowthhub.co.uk
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