Foreword by GBSLEP’s Chief Executive, Katie Trout
Through the course of 2019-20, GBSLEP has made substantial progress in key areas of activity, including delivery of our Growth Programme and bringing forward interventions to; unlock business growth; stimulate innovation; increase skills levels; develop vibrant and thriving places; and harness the potential of the cultural and creative assets across the region.
Our Local Growth Fund reached a major milestone at the beginning of this year, with investment surpassing £180 million, creating 5764 new jobs and unlocking 1379 homes since its inception in 2014. Projects that have received investment have had a positive impact on key growth sectors such as low carbon and energy technologies, life sciences, manufacturing and creative sectors, all of which are crucial drivers for the region’s ongoing success.
Working in partnership with 10 towns, we launched our Growing Our Towns report to provide a series of recommendations based on clear evidence about strengths, challenges and opportunities for the future prosperity of our towns. Building on our Towns and Local Centres Framework we launched and delivered a second round of funding to support smaller, focused projects that develop communities and add to a distinctive sense of place. In addition, we committed over £81,000 to cultural organisations via our Cultural Capacity Fund.
Although we have seen much success, we must also acknowledge that Covid-19 has taken a heavy toll on our economy, bringing about fast-paced and unparalleled changes to our working practices and everyday lives. Businesses, their employees and the self-employed have all been seriously affected and we have seen firsthand how quickly they have needed to adapt. GBSLEP has expanded its support available through our Growth Hub, diverting more of our resources to ensuring businesses can readily access the advice they need. We continue to work closely with partners to gather intelligence on local impact and design and fund our own set of interventions aimed to respond to identified needs.
Close partnership working with the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and our neighbouring LEPs has seen great strides taken toward the implementation of the Local Industrial Strategy for the West Midlands. In consultation with local businesses, the development of Sector Action Plans has provided a critical foundation from which to build well-evidenced Sector Recovery Plans. It is important we continue meaningful engagement with industry and partners across the public and education sectors as we drive these plans forward.
To bolster our key sectors, we have delivered a number of sector-specific activities, including publishing the most in-depth and far-reaching report on our burgeoning Fintech sector, formation of a Health Technologies Cluster Organisation to further strengthen Greater Birmingham’s Life Sciences sector as well as allocating funding for state-of-the-art facilities and business support services at Birmingham Health Innovation Campus, co-developing the region’s new screen industry body, Create Central, supporting rail suppliers to access new contracts via our High-Speed Mentor programme in collaboration the Rail Alliance, and developing the region’s first low carbon action plan. These interventions will help to ensure we are well positioned to seize new opportunities for an accelerated and sustainable recovery and support businesses with changes emanating from the end of the transition period for leaving the European Union.
All of this activity, and much more, is borne out of strong collaboration across the public, private and educations sectors. I’d like to give my immense thanks to our dedicated Board and talented Executive for their hard work and commitment.
Despite the difficulties the Covid-19 pandemic, we continue to have an exciting pipeline of important projects and I am looking forward to continuing to work with partners, to harness our resources and deliver a tangible benefit for all our businesses and residents.