“New approach needed” to put growth corridor on global map
25 June 2018
Silverstone Park’s Commercial Director – and also newly elected STC Chair – Roz Bird addressed both public and private sector organisations when she sat on the CMKO Corridor Economic Growth Conference’s Industrial Strategy Panel.
Roz told a 400-strong audience that she believed the wide variety of capabilities and assets in the CMKO constitute a high-tech super cluster, and should be presented as such – to maximise the potential.
She said: “We need to work together to promote the skills and expertise and capabilities of the area, which includes so many world class assets including Bletchley and Harwell and the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, not to mention the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and of course Silverstone.
“The government is right to want to invest in the area but we now need to consider how the CMKO Corridor can benefit businesses, clearly articulate this and maximise the opportunity; unlock the ‘latent potential’ as the government calls it.”
Roz also reminded the audience that in the Industrial Strategy it states that government is looking to work with clusters that are organised – the economic geography of the CMKO is a ‘cluster of cluster’, ‘a high tech super cluster’.
Drawing parallels between Silverstone Park and the Silverstone Technology Cluster, she added: “We’ve seen the results of this first hand with the creation of Silverstone Technology Cluster which enables us to easily promote the capabilities of the companies in the local area to the outside world.
“As a result Heathrow contacted us and said ‘we’ve seen what you are doing and want to come and talk to your companies’. The STC was already hosting its first annual conference, at which Heathrow was able to present, and relationships with our high-tech companies have begun.”
Roz also encouraged local authorities to work closer together and to think about how they could work differently, to unlock the potential.
“We need to think differently about the approach. Why not incentivise people who work in the public sector to invest their money into other areas of the corridor and they score bonus points if they collaborate?” she asked.
“Also, why not consider doubling the salaries of planning officers and ensure we have the very best support with this process? If we get the best planning officers it sits well when asking the private sector to invest in infrastructure.”
Roz emphasised that while there was a focus on improving transport and housing across the corridor it was important for local authorities not to forget the business community.
She continued: “Business activity in the CMKO will drive this and to engage the business community they need to know how something will benefit their business. I think that they will benefit from promoting their business as part of the super cluster, being associated with all the world class brands that are based in the area. I also think there’s a real opportunity to help companies apply their capabilities to new sectors and to attract new investment in to the area.
“This is a fantastic area to work in, with incredible capabilities and assets. So rather than calling it a ‘corridor’ let’s talk about the ‘high-tech super cluster’ and then when people ask us to justify the term we can list: Cambridge, Cranfield, Buckingham and Oxford University, the OU, Harwell, LMB, Pinewood, Bletchley, Milton Park, Silverstone… the list goes on, plus the fact that we are in close proximity to one of the best cities in the world – London – and we’re close to the Midlands Engine!
“When you start telling that story to someone internationally then they start to get excited because of the critical mass, so it is important that we get the marketing and the vision right from the outset.”