Members of EM3’s Board took a range of questions from delegates at the 2020-21 AGM, discussing some of the LEP’s focus areas including skills, sustainability and funding.
The discussion, chaired by EM3 chair Dave Axam, started with a question on the LEP’s skills’ focus, with Barney Ely, Managing Director of Hays South East saying more than 80 new Enterprise Advisors have been introduced to schools and colleges over the past year, offering visionary and practical careers advice to young people.
“It’s really important for the prosperity of our region that we have the young people coming through, and the vision to put them and guide them into the right careers and skill set.”
Barney added that young people would be key to the LEP’s ambitions to become a national centre for skills for sustainable construction.
Cllr Rob Humby, Deputy Leader of Hants County Council was asked about the lack of affordable housing – often cited as a reason for labour and skills shortages - and he placed the importance of partnership working across the whole of the south east.
He said: “This is about thinking about not only affordable housing but housing need, and what is that need for the place. Everybody needs somewhere nice to live; somewhere nice to work, and somewhere nice to play.
“It’s partnership working to make sure we all work towards providing the right housing which can help in terms of employment and growth, as well having a nice place to work. So it’s the partnership between all of us and I think it’s key that EM3 can do that.”
Julie Baker, Head of Enterprise and Climate Engagement at NatWest, took a question about how EM3 can help private sector funding flow into businesses and said the LEP was working with banks and other financial institutions to navigate the “vast” funding landscape.
“I’m really pleased the EM3 Growth Hub is working with the financial institutions and the British Business Bank so we can navigate across that vast amount of funding available, from the Startup Loan Company for the smaller funding but looking at what Innovate UK and other funding partners have to offer, as well as EM3 and the mainstream banks.
Stacey King, Southern Regional Lead on City Development for CityFibre, said the COVID-19 pandemic had definitely shone a light on how important it is to have really good connectivity across the region.
“We are already investing in this area, with the gigabit spine between Guildford and Basingstoke as a strategically very important project for us as a LEP and for businesses in the area. The importance of that can’t be stressed because what that will mean is it will give us a vehicle to expand further as we need to make sure we do have that connectivity for the area.”
Daniel Ruiz, CEO of Zenzic and Strategic Adviser on Mobility to the Advanced Propulsion Centre, emphasised the importance of the LEP in driving growth while answering a question about green transport and hydrogen or electric vehicles.
“My role within the LEP, and I believe the LEP’s role within the overall business community in the UK economic community, is to bring things together and make sure we are joined up and we're not duplicating effort or there are no holes.
“And that's why our role as a hub going forward is going to be increasingly important. We are joined up with Transport for the South East, we are joined up with other LEPs through Catalyst South and we are joined up with all local authorities in our region as well as with what central government is doing.
“This question about electrification and hydrogen and power propulsion is wrapped up in a call for evidence that the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles in BEIS jointly with DFT has just put out there - so businesses, answer that call for evidence, flag up your concerns and your requirements around energy, and also try and help us work with you to drive the opportunities your way for you to grow.”
Kathy Slack OBE, Chief Executive, EM3 LEP described how the LEP is investing to help local authorities advance their sustainability plans.
“I know Hampshire, Surrey and all our local authorities actually have really ambitious plans for tackling climate change and what we bring to the table is what business is saying.
“The work we’re bringing is through the research work such as the Future Towns Innovation Hub and through our grants and loans as there are innovative companies out there that can start to identify things and work with councils.
“I think this is the very area we ought to be working together on to look at skills, how we support businesses and how we put in some of those big infrastructure changes.
“I think there is a huge amount we can do and I think that is where the positive relationships we have with all these different players we can bring together shows what an effective role the LEP can play in this space.”
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