Lancashire Times
A Voice of the North
4:00 AM 10th May 2021

Productivity Growth Key To Levelling Up In North West – CBI

The North West is a region rich in high-growth business and future industries. It must build on these strengths to increase productivity, which ranks below the national average (fourth out of nine English regions) and is losing ground. Tackling high levels of deprivation and low innovation and R&D spending can inspire future growth.
“There are, however, plenty of positives to build on. The North West boasts real strength in sectors such as advanced manufacturing, health and life sciences, digital and creative industries..."

Key levelling-up priorities include:

Building vibrant local labour markets, with a concerted effort to boost graduate retention rates.
Improving digital infrastructure, helping business to access top talent nationally and ensuring digital inclusion for rural communities.
Inspiring innovative, world-class businesses to invest by linking stakeholders across enterprise, government and academia and improving support for R&D and innovation spending.

New research by the CBI, supported by Lloyds Banking Group, has analysed the comparative economic health of England’s regions, assessing their strength in key criteria around business activity, education, employment, connectivity and social outcomes through a series of scorecards.

These form part of the organisation’s wider Reviving Regions work, highlighting regional successes, as well as the challenges that must be overcome for levelling-up ambitions to succeed in the wake of COVID-19.

CBI metrics show the region’s performance is hindered by low levels of business innovation and R&D activity. North West schools performance ranks next to bottom, and relatively high unemployment rates are an issue too.

The scorecard does contain positive news for the North West, however. The region is home to a large amount of high-growth firms, and training levels are high. Affordable house prices also make the region readily accessible.

Damian Waters
Damian Waters
Damian Waters, CBI North West Director, said: “The North West has issues to address to help grow productivity and prosperity in the wake of COVID-19, and it will take commitment and partnership from government and enterprise to drive the necessary improvement.

“There are, however, plenty of positives to build on. The North West boasts real strength in sectors such as advanced manufacturing, health and life sciences, digital and creative industries, and offshore renewables. Assets such as MediaCityUK, Alderley Park Medicines Catapult, Knowledge Quarter Liverpool and Cumbria Energy Coast exemplify regional excellence.

“These successes showcase what is possible with vision, ambition and investment. It is now incumbent upon leaders in business and at all levels of government to foster a culture of growth by investing in the infrastructure, people and skills this region needs.

“Effective partnership between public and private sectors will be essential to enable the North West to rebuild from the economic ravages of the pandemic, close the productivity gap, and lay the foundations for a better and more prosperous future for all.”

Elyn Corfield, Lloyds Banking Group’s Ambassador for the North of England, said: “For levelling-up to become a reality in the North West, it is clear there is work to be done on improving education, tackling deprivation and encouraging more spending on research and development. Boosting productivity and narrowing the gaps between areas within the region will also be crucial in building for the future.

“However, these scorecards show there is also a strong base to build on, with sectors which are likely to be at the forefront of growth in the years to come well represented here. But most importantly, the public and private sectors must work in tandem to help the North West and its communities not just survive, but thrive as we come out of the pandemic and head towards recovery.”

The CBI hopes its study can help focus minds in business and government – at all levels, including the newly-elected Greater Manchester and Liverpool City Region mayors – on regional growth priorities ahead of the release of its Seize The Moment economic vision next week.