In its new Digital Strategy, the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has outlined an ambitious vision for Lancashire to become a globally significant economic powerhouse at the forefront of the next industrial revolution, with the aim of being the fastest-growing digital economy in the UK by 2035. The LEP has also launched a call to action for the establishment of a series Task and Finish Groups to make the vision a reality.
The Lancashire Digital Strategy is the culmination of extensive consultation and development with an array of stakeholders by the LEP’s Digital Sector Group and builds upon the LEP’s Strategic Economic Framework.
The strategy places the digital sector at the forefront of the county’s growth ambitions and outlines how Lancashire can harness its unique combined industrial and academic strengths to differentiate itself against other regions in four emerging ‘high-growth’ areas: cyber security; advanced transportation; health tech and green tech.
It lays out a series of 14 short, medium and long-term strategic interventions in an action plan, which will unlock Lancashire’s digital growth potential. These interventions aim to help Lancashire’s digital businesses to become more competitive, boost employment and capitalise on the digital and data opportunities across the LEP’s priority industry sectors, including aerospace, manufacturing, and energy and low carbon.
By 2035, the vision is for Lancashire to be the location of choice for businesses and investors looking to develop and apply innovative digital solutions to significant global challenges in advanced transportation, supply and distribution of clean energy and net zero technologies, cyber security and health. Digital employment will more than double to over 50,000 and the contribution of the digital sector to over £5 billion per annum by 2035 – growing from the current 3% contribution to over 10% of economic output.
Central to the strategy’s success is working collaboratively via the Lancashire Digital Skills Partnership and the Lancashire Careers Hub to address the current and ongoing challenges brought about by shortage of people with digital skills in the region. This will include new initiatives to increase the number of new workforce entrants, discourage the migration of skilled people to London and other areas, generate a significant upskilling of the existing workforce, and inspire and engage young people to consider digital careers.
Other interventions identified include the creation of digital and physical infrastructures to support clustering and knowledge exchange – as demonstrated by the thriving Electech Innovation Cluster, based in Lancaster – securing grant, equity, and debt funding, and attracting more private sector and inward investment.
Kam Kothia OBE DL, LEP Board Director and Chair of the LEP’s Digital Sector Group, said that the strategy is ambitious but is underpinned by the county’s legacy of established unique strengths and significant input from the region’s universities.
The strategy builds on Lancashire’s existing cyber and data security capabilities, which have been recognised in recent standout multi-billion pound investments in national centres of excellence in the county, including the National Cyber Force (NCF) and the 5G Factory of the Future at Samlesbury. These successes embody the sector’s ability to collaborate and translate research into products and services capable of transformational impacts in areas of major societal and technological challenge.
Kam Kothia said: “The value of the UK’s technology ecosystem has exploded in recent years, In fact, the UK is only the third country in the World to surpass $1tn, after the US and China. This presents an exciting once in a generation growth opportunity for Lancashire and we believe that we have a unique set of technological capabilities to be able to capitalise on this opportunity, fulfil our latent potential and become not only a major contributor to the UK’s technology ecosystem but the country’s fastest growing digital economy.
“How we meet this goal is laid out in our inclusive strategy which explores how, through strategic collaborations, we will set Lancashire apart and create an environment where start-ups, scale-ups and even unicorns can thrive.
“We recognise that this strategy is ambitious and know that it won’t be realised overnight. It will also require a range of both fiscal and policy-led interventions over the short, medium and long term to achieve impact and positive outcomes for our businesses and residents.
“If you would like to help Lancashire achieve these ambitions, then we’d welcome your input into one of our Task and Finish Groups. This groups will help to shape Lancashire’s Digital Delivery plan, consulting widely and draw upon the collective knowledge of all private and public stakeholders.
“By working together, we can all be part of the transformational change Lancashire deserves and of which it is capable.”
The LEP’s business-led Digital Sector Group is a collaboration of senior leaders from the private sector, academia and the public sector with significant experience and knowledge of the digital sector and technologies.
Anyone who is interested in joining a Task and Finish group should contact Martine Winder, Economic Policy and Communications Manager, Lancashire Enterprise Partnership on Martine.Winder@lancashirelep.co.uk.
To download the Lancashire Digital Strategy, click here.