Government must "learn from Cambridge" as it forms industrial strategy

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30/01/2017

The Government must look to Cambridge as an example for the rest of the country when it prepares its new industrial strategy.

That’s the view of Cambridge Network CEO Claire Ruskin, who was speaking after the Government published a green paper, Building our Industrial Strategy, which sets out its vision for a future that builds on the UK’s strengths, closes the productivity and wealth gap between different regions and drives growth more evenly across the country.

"Cambridge has been a magnet for skills for 800 years"

“The strategy has a number of aspects, including support for some regions of the UK to be hubs for growth,” said Ruskin.

“It isn’t easy to set up new hubs and get them to the stage of being productive – Cambridge has been a magnet for skills for 800 years and has been hard at work building commercial success for the last 50. It takes time and it needs active support from government for the infrastructure of education, transport and housing as well as local inspiration. I am hoping that the local region is recognised as being one of the small number of areas really able to deliver on the world stage immediately, and given the support it needs.

“The Government can learn a lot from what we have been doing here in Cambridge – we tend to get asked about the magic of Cambridge more from outside the UK than inside – and we emphasise how collaboration is one of the best ways to spread the success more broadly.”

The paper outlines 10 key pillars of focus, covering a broad range of themes including ‘skills’, ‘infrastructure’, ‘affordable energy and clean growth’ be discussed as part of a 12-week consultation period.

Ruskin added: “We need to develop relevant skills in a large number of our young people and we need to recognise the pyramid nature of employment – we need to have people with world-class talent, wherever they come from, in order to enable the high employment levels overall.

“Good leaders and innovators are a rare resource that we need to recognise and attract for the good of the whole UK – we have a lot of them here in Cambridge and can spread the impact of their good work more widely if we can enhance STEM skills across the UK.”

Strategy is critical to science and innovation

Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, said: “AstraZeneca shares the Government’s objective of ensuring the UK remains a great place for science and innovation post-Brexit and the industrial strategy is critical to realising this ambition.

“We welcome the consultation and policies that will help unlock the great potential of the UK life science sector to lead in areas such as the treatment of cancer. Strategic support for the sector with the right incentives and policy environment is critical to maintaining our global competitiveness.”

Affordable energy and clean growth

Martin Garratt CEO at green technology membership organisation Cambridge Cleantech, said: “We are pleased that the Government has set out its stall in the draft new Industrial Strategy and that the Green Paper contains several priorities which are of importance to the cleantech sector including delivering affordable energy and clean growth, cultivating world leading sectors including low carbon vehicles and investing in science, research and innovation. The inclusion of improving Government procurement to support innovation is also key to the cleantech sector as we have previously lobbied Government to incorporate a sustainability requirement into major infrastructure schemes such as for HS2, to provide just such an impetus for cleantech companies.”

"The cleantech sector is in tune with the aims of the Green Paper as it drives productivity growth higher than many other business sectors and increasingly has opportunities for exporting cleantech products to emerging markets to help solve environmental issues. We will be consulting our members for their views and ideas and will respond to the Government with some clear and key suggestions and ideas to support the sector”.

The Chairman of Cambridge Cleantech Hugh Parnell, added: “The new draft Industrial Strategy is timely as we are currently undertaking a review of the strengths and needs of the sector and will be launching our own Cleantech Policy Document to present to Government which can shape the final Industrial Strategy”.

Governmental grants are vital

Tom Weaver is CEO of gene sequencing tech firm Congenica, based at the Wellcome Trust Genoma Campus.

"We're excited to hear the new strategy to facilitate scientific research & innovation in the UK. Government support has had an incredibly important role to play in the start up of Congenica. We had a good idea and the seed capital came through govermental grants such as the SBRI and Innovate UK awards, we also had local government funding from Manchester. Without this support we wouldn’t have been able to develop as quickly as we did, and it was an important factor in ensuring subsequent venture capital investment.

"We hope that these plans are an indicator of more good things to come. The UK is a world leader in scientific research and development, and innovation strategies such as this are a big part of why."

Robust plan needed for city

Harriet Fear heads up One Nucleus, the Cambridge-based membership organisation for the life sciences sector.

One Nucleus doesn’t comment on Government policy, but Fear said: “In order for Cambridge to remain globally competitive, it’s clear there need to be robust plans in place for affordable housing, strong infrastructure in terms of transport and access to both excellence and contacts and for Cambridge to be able to continue to attract and retain a highly skilled workforce.”


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