The North’s future success is underpinned by three core elements:
- Transport & connectivity
- Education & skills
Work across each of these priorities is critical to rebalancing the UK economy and levelling up. In order to maximise future opportunities we must build on our existing strengths as well as leading the way in new economic frontiers.
In 2015 the Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review (NPIER) identified four prime capabilities, in which we compete globally: advanced manufacturing, energy, health innovation and digital.
These capabilities are, in turn, facilitated by three critical enablers to driving further growth:
- Financial and professional services, a sector in which the North already boasts considerable assets.
- A thriving logistics industry, underpinning the needs of the business community and consumers across the country.
- Greater investment in Northern universities, colleges and wider institutions to develop world-leading research and innovation, whilst nurturing the talent and skills of the future northern workforce.
Transport & Connectivity
Every successful economy is built on reliable transport networks in which people and goods can move about quickly and easily. Millions of workers pour into London from every corner of the country each day thanks to such a commuter rail network, underpinning an ecosystem of innovation, enterprise and growth.
The North deserves the same. Decades of underinvestment mean that getting around the North is often slow, unreliable and inefficient. Productivity levels are held back by limited rail infrastructure, a degraded bus network and poor walking and cycle routes. People choose to work within a short distance of where they live – or else they drive long distances on congested roads, rather than opting for public transport.
We need a modern, integrated transport system that forges closer links between Northern towns and cities, connecting us to the rest of the country – and beyond. We need high speed rail across north to south and from east to west in order to create much-needed capacity on an overcrowded rail network. This means building Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2 both sides of the Pennines, transforming connectivity and attracting investment.
Unlocking this investment has the potential to enable the creation of hundreds of thousands of well-paid, skilled jobs across some of the most deprived parts of the country, driving economic regeneration across the Northern Powerhouse now and in decades to come.
Education & Skills
Closing the productivity gap and rebalancing the economy cannot happen without addressing the North-South divide in educational standards. The North has the highest numbers of children from long-term disadvantaged backgrounds who face huge socio-economic challenges, meaning the effect of the education disadvantage gap is starkest here.
These children begin falling behind from an early age, greatly limiting their ability to go into more productive, higher paid careers. Our work focuses on progress among these long-term disadvantaged pupils, looking at the challenges faced by children beyond the school gates which have a detrimental effect on academic performance.
This means understanding specific local issues and tackling underlying problems faced by young people in left-behind areas. We need to give children in these communities a reason to be ambitious, creating better future career opportunities for when they leave school.
Change will not happen overnight. Narrowing this divide will require comprehensive, targeted investment at the most disadvantaged pupils, including reforming Pupil Premium to ensure it reaches those that need it most.
A good education lays the foundation for further skills training later in life. We need a highly skilled workforce here in the North, equipped with the tools to build the industries of the future: green energy, advanced manufacturing and innovative health industries. Investing in future generations remains the key to unlocking growth and levelling up.
Since our inception, devolution was and remains the driving force behind the Northern Powerhouse. Decentralising power away from Whitehall would give local leaders – directly answerable to their electorate – real power over local issues including skills, transport and, in the case of Greater Manchester, health. Our aim is to re-engage voters who have become disillusioned with a London-centric system, to give them a greater say over the communities they live in.
Our Metro Mayors are a hallmark of this change. A few years on from the first devolution deals, we now have Mayors across a number of Northern areas including Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, South Yorkshire and the Tees Valley, with West Yorkshire due to be added to the list in May 2021. Our ambition is to extend devolution across the whole of the North through deals for every city region and travel to work area, as well as to deepen it by securing further control for local leaders.
This will require a radical shift in mind-set. Our ultimate goal is to reach a point where the North no longer has to rely on Whitehall handouts. Once productivity is in line with the UK average, we can restructure how tax is raised in order to align investment decisions with future returns. A future built by the North, for the North.
Advanced manufacturing & materials
Spearheading a Fourth Industrial Revolution is essential to building a successful, productive Northern Powerhouse economy. This would see the North’s historic expertise in manufacturing embrace the latest technologies such as additive manufacturing for the development of new innovative products.
Unlocking growth will require investment in research, innovation and skills, alongside close collaboration with universities and translational institutes.
These include organisations such as Teesside’s Materials Processing Institute (which focuses on steel), as well as the AMRC in Sheffield and in the North West.
Over recent years, the North has built considerable assets in green energy, including the Sellafield nuclear site in Cumbria, as well as the offshore wind blade factory in Hull.
Opportunities in sectors such as hydrogen, Carbon Capture and Storage and Small Modular Reactors have huge potential to create jobs and generate growth – while bringing the UK closer to its goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
Further investment in building the supply chain for these industries here in the North is needed to unlock the maximum benefits for local communities.
Health innovation is one of the most dynamic and productive sectors in the Northern economy. Our strong clinical research capability is based within world-leading teaching hospitals and research-intensive universities, which work alongside a fully integrated supply chain of private companies.
These fast-growing, innovative companies are largely concentrated in pharmaceuticals, medtech and digital health, pioneering collaborative working with research institutions in increasingly interconnected clusters across the North.
Many Northern regions have developed a unique digital specialism; from data analytics in Leeds, to cyber in Greater Manchester, to gaming in Sunderland. Pan-Northern expertise in areas such as cognitive computation and data analytics are driving developments across the wider economy, disrupting traditional ways of working.
However, a long-standing digital skills gap in the northern workforce means the digital tech sector has not reached its full potential. Addressing this challenge and investing further in organisations such as the National Centre for Data at Newcastle University will allow the North to remain at the forefront of a digital revolution in the coming decades.
Working with businesses and organisations accross the North