Northern business leaders call on new PM to back five-point plan to unlock North’s full potential

Posted 7th September 2022
8 minutes read
Icon indicating article type.

Northern business leaders have written to new Prime Minister, Truss today to underline the North’s central role in driving the UK’s future growth and prosperity and call for continued commitment to levelling up the North’s economy to unlock its huge untapped potential.

The NP11 group of Northern Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) sets out out five key offers from the North to help the new Government deliver on its ambitions for the whole country, and how targeted government investment and collaboration with Northern elected and business leaders can best realise these opportunities.

Based on thorough research and evidence, the proposals have received support from influential business leaders across the North, alongside organisations such as IPPR North and the Northern Health Sciences Network.

The five offers focus on:

  • developing the North’s substantial green energy strengths to tackle rising energy costs and develop secure, resilient and low carbon domestic energy supply;
  • unleashing private sector innovation, particularly in relation to the North’s world-leading life sciences sector, which accounts for over a fifth of UK life sciences jobs;
  • building a Global North that exports innovation globally and attracts significant foreign direct investment (FDI) as a key contributor to Global Britain;
  • harnessing northerners’ innate passion and pride in their places by giving the North the fundamental tools to create the prosperous economy it can and wants to achieve; and
  • adding at least £10 billion to the UK economy by helping digital businesses across the North scale up and create highly skilled jobs.

Sir Roger Marsh OBE DL, Chair of the NP11, said:

“Too often the North is presented as a problem child, when in fact it holds the solution to addressing many of the challenges – and indeed the opportunities –the UK faces.

“Prime Minister Truss has a full in-tray of issues needing urgent attention, which is why we have written to her to set out practical ways in which the North can help tackle national concerns such as energy cost rises and the imperative to develop secure, green domestic energy supplies in response to the Russia-Ukraine war, while also unlocking new sources of economic growth that will improve opportunity and living standards for people and help build a competitive, Global Britain.

“With the right, targeted investment and by working collaboratively with northern elected and business leaders, we can unlock this huge potential, not just for the benefit of the North but for the whole country. Our offers and asks are well-developed and based on solid evidence about what the North really needs to prosper, so we can help the Government bring forward plans at pace that will realise the promise of levelling up set out in its 2019 election manifesto.”

With rising energy costs already hitting many northern businesses and residents hard, a key offer to Government is to develop lower cost, secure and sustainable domestic energy sources to help the UK become less reliant on overseas energy supply and more resilient to wholesale gas price increases, building on the North’s green energy and low carbon technology strengths which already generate half of England’s renewable energy.

According to research set out in the NP11’s Net Zero North Prospectus, published in April this year, backing the North as the UK’s green energy powerhouse could enable the Government to deliver 100,000 new jobs and an extra £2 billion a year in economic growth by 2050, while also halving carbon emissions by 2032.

Unleashing private sector innovation is another major opportunity identified by the NP11, focusing on the North’s significant business R&D strengths, particularly in relation to clean growth and life sciences. The North is home to over a fifth of the country’s life sciences jobs and has the potential to develop a Northern Life Sciences Supercluster that would enhance Global Britain’s competitiveness in this fast-growing industry, while also boosting productivity three-fold and closing the North-South healthy life expectancy divide that currently costs UK plc £13 billion a year. This supercluster could bring £16.52bn to the UK’s economy and see the northern medtech sector be worth £7.8bn in 2032.

The other key offers focus on enabling the North to play its full part in a competitive Global Britain by supporting more northern businesses to export and making the most of the North’s outstanding quality of life to attract more overseas investment to the UK; giving the North the tools to level itself up, such as greater devolution to local areas, more place-based government investment and strong economic evidence to help local leaders achieve the £100bn of transformational growth set out in the Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review, target investment in the right areas; and helping digital business scale-up by providing every home in the North with full-fibre broadband by 2030 and investing in digital skills so that every child in the North leaves full-time education digitally literate and able to access jobs in an increasingly digital labour market.

All of this must be underpinned by a modern, functioning and accessible transport system that connects all of the North’s towns, cities and rural areas.