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Rockets under mayors

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The government should put ‘rocket boosters’ under the idea of directly elected Mayors to ensure that all parts of the country are in a position to benefit from UK’s world class technology sector, according to thinktank Policy Exchange (14 August 2014).

Our report says that Britain is already benefitting from the growth of technology firms with 1.2 million people employed in the sector. The technology sector also received more equity investment than any other sector over the past three years. However, the fruits of this success are predominantly being felt in and around London and the South East.
The report argues that ‘clusters’ – geographic concentrations of interconnected companies and institutions in a particular field – are the most effective way of boosting the technology sector across the country. It highlights a number of challenges facing northern towns and cities:

A ‘brain drain’ from the North. Over a third of graduates from major universities leave the North East (37%) and North West (36%) while as many as 55% leave Yorkshire and the Humber. For STEM subjects, the figures are 35%,34% and 52% respectively. Those from the top ranked universities leave in higher numbers.

A lack of local leadership. As many as 37 local authorities are covered by more than one Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), creating a mismatch between the geography over which LEPs have responsibility and the business communities on the ground.

Access to finance. A study by the UK Business Angel Association found that businesses in London and the South East attracted 54% of angel funding in 2012/13. At a venture capital level, the two regions also dominated, receiving 58% of total UK investment.

Transport links. The average speed of journeys from Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield to London is 77.6mph, compared with an average speed between those northern cities of just 46mph. Slow journeys make it harder for people to move between clusters to access and share work, ideas and opportunities and is a major barrier for foreign and London based investors.

The report makes a series of recommendations to boost the growth of technology clusters in the North, including:

Reviving the idea of directly elected Mayors with appropriately devolved powers to lead economic growth in their areas including the development of tech clusters.

Investing in rail and road infrastructure to better connect northern towns and cities. High Speed 3 should be carefully considered but policymakers should also be aware that travel between towns and cities is extremely slow.

Encouraging universities to let students retain the intellectual property of products or services they create while studying. Stronger bonds between the university and graduate may help retain more top quality entrepreneurs in the local area.

What exactly has a directly elected mayor got to do with ‘world class technology sectors’? Is “the technology sector”, whatever that is, implanted in the South East because London has a directly elected mayor? Liverpool has a directly elected mayor. So where is Silicon Mersey Valley?

The average speed of journeys from Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield to London “is 77.6 mph”. How does that work? Does that mean everyone driving down the motorway is breaking the speed limit?


Written by beleben

August 16, 2014 at 10:50 am

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