Industrial clusters in every region are the only way to level up – according to CBI

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Empowering regions to play to their different strengths must win out over cookie-cutter solutions if levelling up is to succeed – according to the CBI.

Business can serve as a driving force behind the UK’s levelling-up aspirations by harnessing local strengths to propel regional economies through recovery towards enduring prosperity.

That is the view of CBI Director-General Tony Danker, who will today outline his vision for tackling long-term regional inequalities at the organisation’s Urban Revival conference.

In a new vision for the UK economy, to be published in May, the CBI will call for regions to be liberated from the restrictive cookie-cutter approach of the past, and empowered to capitalise on their unique strengths to build back better.

The CBI wants to see towns, cities, regions and nations supported to develop their strength industries in a way which enables each to become globally competitive in their own right. Increasing productivity in all corners of the country will in turn help end inequalities in education, health, wealth and opportunity – and raise living standards for all.

Urban Revival delegates will hear how a joined-up approach uniting business and all levels of government is the key to turning these ambitions into tangible reality – and the CBI believes now is the time to foster and evolve such a partnership.

In his address, Tony Danker, CBI Director-General, will say: “A core pillar of the CBI’s vision for the decade ahead is for every UK nation and region to be globally competitive. But neither business nor government can achieve this alone – levelling up will require partnering up.

“Governments – national or local – can build the infrastructure for urban success. More trains. More broadband. New railway stations. They control the local budgets for buses, parks, healthcare and colleges – the essential foundations upon which communities are forged.

“Yet levelling up is a vital business issue too – for businesses and by businesses. It can be a tide that raises all boats – and all businesses too. So we’re here to do the bit we as business can do; creating thriving firms, bustling high streets, local jobs, better wages.

“Reinforcing successful business clusters will be central to kickstarting this regional revival. This means building on distinctive local strengths to forge a clear USP for investment in towns, cities, regions and nations in all corners of the United Kingdom. Cookie-cutter solutions are no solution at all if levelling up is to be a success.

“From automotive in the West Midlands, to aerospace in the South West, and from the Holyhead Hydrogen Hub in Wales to the Golden Triangle of research and innovation in the South East – the UK is rich in clusters of excellence. These strengths can equip communities to forge and grow unique identities on a global stage.

“True levelling up will not be achieved by regions working towards identikit – and at times competing – economic strategies. Rather, it will come from areas knowing their strengths, recognising the opportunities this can create, and capitalising on them to forge their own path to long-term prosperity.”

Further CBI goals for UK-wide levelling up include:

  • Utilising anchor institutions – from universities to keystone businesses – at the heart of regional economies to help attract investment and spur related sector growth.
  • Building a rich sector mix, including high-value export offerings to bring money to the region, and future industries like renewable energy with strong growth opportunity.
  • Business leadership within communities, with firms reinvesting profits into people, delivering training and skills, improving facilities and working towards net-zero.

Tony Danker added: “There is no greater force for positive, lasting change than business. Our job now is to turn warm words into a national movement, an urban revival revolution.

“Any levelling-up agenda without jobs, without industrial clusters, without business sector regeneration, is not levelling-up at all. Rebalancing the UK economy can’t be done by government alone.

“Business stands ready and able to play a full part. From the technology we create, to the buildings we live and work in, and the transport we use to get there, enterprise can be a driving force in the UK’s urban revival and the key to achieving its levelling-up goals.”

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