Over 150 business leaders, and decision makers from local authorities and education providers joined EM3 Local Enterprise Partnership at our 2022 Annual Conference to celebrate the success of the LEP and share plans to continue to drive economic growth across Hampshire and Surrey.
The event was the first in-person conference for the LEP since 2019 and was the final one for EM3’s long-serving Chief Executive Kathy Slack OBE, who is set to retire in June after leading the LEP for more than 10 years.
Opening the event at Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre, EM3 Chair Michael Queen described the LEP as having “the DNA of a high-tech start-up.”
He told delegates: “This creates remarkable results and explains to people how an organisation with relatively limited resources can make such a big impact.”
“As the country faces the headwinds of inflation and labour shortages, and potentially low growth, at EM3 we are determined to go forward with our partners to make sure the region is known as the innovation region of the UK – the place of choice for those high growth, high valued companies.”
Explaining how this can be achieved, Michael, who was speaking at his first EM3 Annual Conference as Chair, launched the LEP’s strategic plan and said: “We recently announced our new vision for a high growth economy and will focus all our efforts on that goal.”
“We will work with all of our partners, in the areas where EM3 has proven expertise and we will provide support to high potential sector clusters, and we will provide tailored business support through our Growth Hub.”
“We will be helping our businesses to achieve carbon friendly growth and compete in international markets, and we will be working to attract new investments into our area and enhance conditions where innovation and enterprise flourish.”
Kathy Slack is ‘exploding with pride’ as she steps down as Chief Executive
In her speech, Kathy outlined some of the LEPs successes over the past year, including the LEP's investment of £25m in 22 projects, bringing in investment from overseas, supporting 9,000 learners and safeguarding over 1,000 jobs.
“That’s absolutely phenomenal given the year we have been in,” said Kathy, who noted that “there is huge interest in companies wanting to move into this area.”
Focussing on the LEP’s achievements over the past ten years, Kathy said EM3 had pulled in over 300 foreign investments, invested £726m in the region, secured £252m in government funding, assisted 32,000 new learners, supported 1,200 high growth SMEs, created or safeguarded 7,868 jobs. By the end of this year, the LEP would have invested at least £21m in low carbon businesses and invested £54m in digital technologies.
She said the LEP region is recognised as the UK space hub, with 185 organisations in the sector, with a combined turnover of £9.7billion. The EM3 region has 10% of the UK’s game industry workforce and has an animal medtech cluster of 190 organisations and eight research institutes.
Other highlights include EM3 investing £10m in a gigabit capable fibre spine that will run between Guildford and Basingstoke, a £3.8m investment at the 5G Living Lab on Basing View, Basingstoke, and investing £1.75m which transformed digital learning during the Covid pandemic, leading to the Innovation South Virtual Campus.
Kathy added: “I’m exploding with pride. I’ve been really fortunate. I have been in a job that I have absolutely loved almost every minute of it with people who are just fascinating and amazing. I feel, along with my team that we’ve made a difference.”
It’s time to shout about our success
The event also featured two panel discussions, with the first called Empowering Business Growth. This was chaired by EM3 Director Linda Cheung, where Steven Northam, the Founder and CIO of IncuHive, the Executive Chairman of Surrey Satellite Technology (SSTL) Sir Martin Sweeting and Jarmila Yu, the Founder and Consulting CMO of YUnique Marketing, shared their views about the EM3 region and how the LEP has helped their enterprises succeed.
Steven said he is impressed with how many enterprising and entrepreneurial people there are in the EM3 area and despite the current economic uncertainties, said: “It’s a really exciting time to be in business.”
He spoke of the success of IncuHive’s office space in Andover, which opened in 2021, thanks in part to funding from EM3 as part our Economic Recovery Plan, Revive and Renew.
“Within six months it was full of entrepreneurial organisations,” said Steven. “I have been blown away by some of the different types of businesses that have popped up from nowhere, from a high-end engineering company which works with Rolls Royce to a Voice Over IP tech company. Aside from the funding, the LEP has obviously helped us – it has opened doors and gave us access to networks and people, including central government, which we wouldn’t otherwise have had.”
Sir Martin highlighted the benefits of the location of the LEP and of SSTL based at Surrey Research Park, in Guildford, “being part of an enormous cluster of space related companies,” with close transport links to Heathrow and Gatwick. He said: “If you have an international business, having this type of geographical hub associated alongside the innovation of the University of Surrey and surrounding industries is really key.”
Jarmila encouraged businesses to shout about their success. She said “As a nation we tend to be quite shy, but we should get over ourselves and be proud of our achievements. There are some great things happening and some great success stories, but we don’t really shout about them enough.”
Prospects for Young People, Skills Shortages and Levelling Up – Questions to the EM3 Board
Delegates had an opportunity to put their questions to the EM3 Business Board, during the second panel discussion. Various issues were discussed, including supporting young people in education and training, the retention of graduates, skills shortages and recruitment challenges, housing costs and the levelling up agenda.
One question aimed at Sarah Jane Chimbwandira, CEO of Surrey Wildlife Trust, was how to get business leaders to think in terms of nature positive growth?
“Business leaders can’t afford not to think about this,” said Sarah Jane, who explained “The World Economic Forum has identified the top five risks to the global economy are environmental.”
She said it is not only about business resilience as it is also recognizing there are opportunities too.
“One of the things that I think is really interesting for this LEP is the focus on technology and digital, and the way that plays into a climate and nature resilient space through the development of what I call nature tech.”
During the conference it was announced that current senior directors Sue Littlemore and Stephen Martin will lead the LEP as new Joint Managing Directors. Both know how to drive the region forward through their experience at EM3.
To find out more about the work and what we have achieved across the EM3 region, click here to view the 2021/22 Digital Annual Report.
Collaborate with us to connect with organisations, people and ideas