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Roger Marsh OBE

Roger Marsh, OBE, DL, Chair Leeds City Region LEP, NP11 and NPIF Strategic Oversight Board

What is NP11 and what has been its impact to date? 

The NP11 is the business-led voice for the North that brings together the 11 local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) from across the North of England. We act as the collective interface between national Government and business in the North of England, driving prosperity and improving lives by working in partnership. We are investment focused, partnership driven, and business led.

Our work is focused around four key policy areas. These are:

  • Trade & investment
  • Research & Development
  • Clean Growth
  • PlacemakingSince our launch in July 2018, we have championed Northern business and focused on driving economic prosperity to build a thriving and well-connected Northern Powerhouse.

The NP11 has worked closely with the Government to coordinate a comprehensive approach to driving growth and turbo-charging Britain’s economy. As a united voice representing Northern LEPs, our ambition is to accelerate that work together and ensure the North punches well above its weight.

What has been the biggest benefit of working alongside the other 10 LEP areas to take a collaborative approach to helping Northern business? 

LEPs operate at the right level to make a difference to their local economies and businesses. There are shared ambitions, however, where collaboration across the North can enable us to make the whole much greater than its individual parts.

Clean growth is one such example. Each of our northern region’s has its own complementary assets that together make a compelling northern investment proposition. By harnessing these complementary strengths – from electric car manufacturing in the North East, to offshore wind, hydrogen innovation and CCS in the Humber, Tees Valley and North Yorkshire, nuclear capabilities in the North West, plus a strong and resilient manufacturing supply chain in West and South Yorkshire – into an integrated pan-northern pipeline of activity, we can ensure the North is at the front of the queue for investment through the Government’s recently announced Ten Point Plan.

Increased collaboration across the North will be essential if we are to deliver an even stronger Northern economy. The NP11 was established to do exactly that. The LEPs play a unique role in shaping the economic strategy in their areas, channelling and attracting commercial and Government investment, and supporting businesses to grow.

In your opinion, how can the public and private sector work better together to boost the growth of the North’s SME community? 

LEPs provide a unique value by bringing the public and private sectors together, harnessing the best of both worlds to unlock extraordinary economic growth for local economies and businesses. SMEs are the backbone of the North’s economy so creating the conditions for them to grow, innovate and create jobs is integral to everything we do. This has never been truer than now, as we look towards our economic recovery from COVID-19 and a new international trading environment outside of the EU. SMEs are having to adapt to unprecedented change, and it’s vital that they have the right support to make those adaptations.

Building back better includes ensuring our SMEs have the resilience to cope with future economic shocks, and by providing support programmes around innovation, exporting, leadership and management, and skills investment we can ensure that SMEs not only survive the current challenges but are able to thrive in future, and create good quality, skilled jobs for the people who live and work in the North. Our network of growth hubs is helping SMEs access the right cocktail of support and investment to realise their individual ambitions, and it’s vital that this support continues. I’ve been encouraged by the work that LEPs across the North have done to put in place economic recovery boards in their local areas, working hand in glove with local councils, health bodies, education institutions and others to ensure that recovery plans focus on an integrated approach.

The private sector will be the engine of recovery and job creation after this crisis, but the public sector has a fundamental role in ensuring this growth delivers the right results for people and places, creating the conditions for the right kind of growth given its role as place leaders, and channeling its limited resources in the right places.

Supporting businesses through the challenges of Covid-19

How has the COVID-19 pandemic altered the way NPIF has been working with the Northern business community?

As businesses have made rapid, significant shifts in their operations, NPIF has taken a unique approach to working with its portfolio of businesses. The team has been working closely with regional fund managers, LEPs and combined authorities to ensure businesses can continue to access vital support and funding, regardless of the challenges they’re facing

Six NPIF Debt and Microfinance Fund Managers have been accredited to provide CBILS-backed loans, helping a wide range of businesses through the challenges of Covid-19

In sectors that have experienced growth, we have seen an increase in demand for equity investments and the Government’s Future Fund, which have helped organisations expand domestically and internationally.

What has been your standout moment for 2020? Which sector or innovation has impressed you the most? 

Throughout 2020, entrepreneurs and small business owners have demonstrated incredible resilience despite the seemingly never-ending turbulent events. The North’s capacity for innovation and reinvention goes back to the Industrial Revolution, and the small business owners of our day have certainly built upon this legacy.

My standout moment has been each of the opportunities I’ve had to work with these impressive leaders. Their ongoing courage, commitment, and ingenuity will be integral to our economic revival.

I must also applaud my colleagues within West Yorkshire and fellow NP11 board members. In West Yorkshire, our hard-won devolution deal, which is the biggest of its kind and was signed days before the country was placed into lockdown, should be a game-changer. It unlocks significant new funding alongside greater powers, allowing us to invest in public transport, support businesses, improve skills and living standards while tackling the climate emergency.

Working together has proved hugely successfully over the last 12 months and I look forward to working closer in the future in order to achieve great things for our region.

Supporting the North’s SMEs in 2021 and beyond

In which industries do you expect to see significant growth or innovation during 2021?

The economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will provide a renewed focus on clean growth and renewable energy. Announced in November 2020, the Prime Minister’s 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution will deliver £12 billion of government investment. The UK’s commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050 will require a significant economic transformation, with further support for net zero innovation highly likely in the coming year.

Clean growth in particular is an opportunity for the North to lead the way for the rest of the country, and the Government has already recognised our significant role in electric car manufacturing and offshore wind production.

The North has a proud history in contributing to the energy needs of the nation and continues to do so today by generating over 40% of the UK’s electricity. Our region has the expertise and the willingness to work together, to create transformative projects across the North and catapult the nation towards our 2050 objectives.

Reaching this target is not only environmentally important, but also economically vital to the Government’s levelling-up agenda. A 50% reduction in carbon levels by 2032 would create in the region of 100,000 new jobs and add £2bn per annum to the Northern economy by 2050.

How can the public sector support individuals and businesses to boost Northern employment post-pandemic?

The North has been disproportionally affected the pandemic, but the true capabilities of our region have yet to be unleashed. Tapping into this wealth of talent and economic potential will boost the prosperity of the entire nation.

Targeted Government investment into communities where it’s needed the most will boost economic productivity and in turn create employment opportunities.  To unlock this enormous employment potential, Northern businesses need the sustained backing of central government and the certainty and stability to take calculated risks.

Whilst this backing is essential, we cannot afford to wait for Government to act. In October 2020, the NP11 launched an online careers and skills platform which provides users with tailored employment information for their local area. The service is designed to help those who have lost their job due to the pandemic, and is an example of what can be achieved through collaboration and partnership.

What advice would you give to businesses in the region who are looking to grow? 

Business owners need to know that they’re not alone. I would encourage any business to take advantage of the support which is available to them, such as their local growth hubs, who can point businesses in the right direction and help them access the information they need.

Engaging with fellow business owners and learning from each other will also be vital during this time. LEPs and growth hubs across the North are running Peer Networks programmes where SME business leaders can tap into support from other businesses going through the same challenges they are. Visit or speak to your local growth hub for more.

How would you say the North’s SME community can truly ‘build back better’ in the months and years to come?

The key word here is ‘community’. Working in partnership with each other, and recognising that we’re all in this together will be critical to our recovery. It will be vital to learn from one another and forge an environment which allows business to thrive. In 2020 we didn’t just see each other as competitors, but instead we willed each other on and worked towards a post pandemic future. We can ‘build back better’ by embracing this spirit of community and pursuing a culture where we learn from one another.

The North’s SME’s will be the backbone of this economic revival and we must all strive to build a region which allows for business growth, establishing an economic powerhouse in the North.

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

Editors Notes

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