LEP Backs Regional Growth Fund Bids

A business-led group striving to drive forward the economy in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire has backed seven commercial projects which made bids for Government funding last week.

The Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has supported the applications to the Regional Growth Fund which could create hundreds of jobs in the area.

It is the first of three bidding rounds to the £1.4bn fund, created by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills last year. The Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP has been working closely with the project bids to help to ensure they are as robust as possible. The bids total £30m.

Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP chairman Jim Rickard said it was essential that the supported bids met all the criteria to have any chance of success.

“We have been working closely with these seven projects as they were identified as being ready to undergo the tough scrutiny they will receive by the Government department.

“There are many more that we can consider for LEP support in the future but we must be realistic about focussing on those which have a chance of obtaining funding and which we believe will help to create and safeguard jobs in the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP area.

“This is a highly competitive national process and we understand that the bids may only be partially successful or not at all. However there are a further two rounds where potential bids can be submitted.

“A lot of hard work has gone into these bids and the LEP is pleased to have lent its support in aiming to make them a success.”

The projects are:

Keele University:
An expansion of the existing innovation centre to help the growth of high technology businesses

Ceramics:
Development of processes to reduce energy consumption to maintain the UK’s competitive edge in the global market

Media Place (at Staffordshire University’s Stoke campus):
Creating a facility that provides business start up space for the digital media sector

The development of a world class research and development centre at Alstom in Stafford

Centre of Refurbishment Excellence (CoRE):
Development of a national centre for excellence in refurbishment of buildings

East West Centre Redevelopment:
Amajor city shopping and leisure development to complement the relocation and improvement of the bus station in Stoke-on-Trent

Central Business District(phase 1):
A mixed use development in Stoke-on-Trentcity centre designed to attract regional and national business and professional services firms

The Regional Growth Fund bidding process is highly competitive. Bidders understand that their applications may need to be reconsidered at a later stage, or that funding allocated may be less than they had applied for. Bids need to demonstrate that they meet the fund’s objectives, offer good value for money, be evidence based, attract additional private sector funding and fit well with the local economy.

There are many other projects put forward by business, education and public sector organisations which the LEP will be reviewing for future rounds.

Co-operation and Cluster- a new approach to Regenerating Stoke on Trent

I came across this article while doing an Internet trawl for information on employment and regeneration ideas. It struck as being rather like arguments I have been advancing for some time now and that is the need to break down the Stoke on Trent economy into smaller areas. I suggested it in the context of green energy creation and conservation. This approach seems an interesting one. It almost suggests de federalisation (if there is such a word. I think getting different parts of the conurbation to work in clusters especially around the notion of “”co-operation”

A North Staffs Cluster might include Ceramics, Manufacturing, The Creative and New Technologies Sector, the Green economy and transport and communication.

I am pushing this idea because of recent events seem to me to suggest independence from the people in suits who come fleetingly to this area pocket great amounts of cash and then move on to other parts of the country, but the area does not change.

It’s an interesting read in my opinion

I am particularly interested in the development of specialisms from older industries

“The depth of the crisis meant there was agreement amongst local groups regarding the problems they faced and the need for a unified response. Since the region had a tradition of involving universities and other experts in industry it seemed logical to turn to economists and others from the university system to help develop strategies for recovery.

Based on their advice, the Styrian Provincial Government set up the Styrian Business Promotion Agency (Steierische Wirtschaftsförderung, or SFG) in 1991. This independent, semi-public regional development agency was tasked with promoting economic development and regeneration. As well as offering financial support to business, providing consultancy services and facilitating links between businesses and decision-makers, the SFG also introduced the concept of “clusters”.

Under the cluster system, local businesses work together for their common good, developing networks, transferring technology and information, forming special interest groups and initiating co-operative projects. Each cluster is set up, as a limited company 100% owned by SFG. This percentage is gradually reduced and private sector ownership increased as the cluster prospers. Membership is open to a wide range of organisations, and their joining fees help finance the cluster.

The Automotive Cluster (known as AC Styria) was the first example of this approach. Its members included the SFG itself, private sector companies and other organisations such as local universities. Since then six other clusters have been created covering Timber, Human Technology, Materials, Eco-cluster, Tech for Taste (focussing on food technology) and the Creative Industries.

Since the mid 1990s Styria has undergone a remarkable recovery, with the restructuring of traditional sectors and the development of a new, higher technology industrial base. The cluster approach is widely credited as driving this change by local businesses and politicians.

Styria is still a major steel producer, but instead of making low grade, general purpose steel it now makes specialist steels that meet the needs of the automotive and other industries. The wood and paper industries have also been modernised, and the region has become a leader in the production of papermaking machinery.

The automotive cluster, which helped kick start the change, has built on its old skills (specifically the production of four-wheel-drive vehicles), and now manufactures vehicles for prestige companies like Mercedes, BMW, Chrysler and Aston Martin. As a result employment is up, from 495,000 in 1995 to 539,800 in 2005, while the whole area is now rated as Europe’s 41st most innovative region.

Explaining the situation helps inspire action. In Styria, spelling out the sheer scale of the problem, combined with the region’s small size and strong identity, made it relatively easy to get agreement for drastic action amongst local interest groups.

Trust is the basis for all collective action. Styria’s remarkable transformation depended on a joint effort by a wide range of players. This in turn depended on one key factor – trust. Because the interested parties knew they working for their common good, the usual infighting and suspicions didn’t arise.

Make sure everyone involved understand that policy and spending decisions are in their interest. This becomes far easier if the action programme is realistic and builds on existing capabilities. It also needs to be based on a properly researched, coherent strategy that doesn’t threaten or serve the interests of any one organisation.

Choose effective local leaders with a stake in the result. Such individuals must combine technical experience, the ability to leverage private and public sector expertise, a strong commitment to the successful transformation of “Ëœtheir patch’ and the ability to combine informal networks with more formal structures.
Where a large company goes, smaller companies follow. The involvement of larger companies brought status and resources to the clusters and encouraged smaller businesses to get on board.

Since the mid 1990s Styria has undergone a remarkable recovery, with the restructuring of traditional sectors and the development of a new, higher technology industrial base. The cluster approach is widely credited as driving this change by local businesses and politicians.

Styria is still a major steel producer, but instead of making low grade, general purpose steel it now makes specialist steels that meet the needs of the automotive and other industries. The wood and paper industries have also been modernised, and the region has become a leader in the production of papermaking machinery.

The automotive cluster, which helped kick start the change, has built on its old skills (specifically the production of four-wheel-drive vehicles), and now manufactures vehicles for prestige companies like Mercedes, BMW, Chrysler and Aston Martin. As a result employment is up, from 495,000 in 1995 to 539,800 in 2005, while the whole area is now rated as Europe’s 41st most innovative region.

Wedgwood Win Gold In Olympic Tender

Stoke-on-Trent pottery manufacturer Wedgwood have been appointed to produce souvenir merchandise for the London 2012 Olympics.

Barlaston based WWRD who own the Wedgwood brand have been appointed by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) to produce London 2012 commemorative and souvenir merchandise.

A range of ceramic and crystal products will be produced by WWRD the products will include a number of limited edition Waterford, Wedgwood and Royal Doulton pieces.

A selection of the ceramic products which are expected to be available later this year will be produced in the UK and selected Waterford Crystal items will be produced in Waterford, Ireland.

London 2012 Director of Commercial Negotiations Charlie Wijeratna commented,

It is fantastic to have WWRD onboard. They are iconic brands incorporating the best of British and Irish design and tradition. Their tremendous heritage and quality ceramics and glassware will help ensure exciting London 2012 product ranges as well as raise funds to help stage the Games. London 2012 will launch its online store in spring 2010.