Northern manufacturers urge fresh boost to growth

The region is already a leader in fields such as advanced materials and energy research

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The Independent Online

Britain’s biggest manufacturers will this week call on whoever forms the next government to commit to greater economic devolution and push for more North-west investment to boost growth.

Siemens, BAe, BT and AstraZeneca are among 30 of the region’s employers backing a new campaign, “Priming the Powerhouse – A Business Manifesto for England’s North West”, which urges greater collaboration to boost the region’s science base and improve local skill levels.

Jurgen Maier, boss of Siemens in the UK and chairman of the North West Business Leadership Team, which published the manifesto, said that if the Government’s Northern Powerhouse project is to succeed, the region needs to promote its science and technology base and attract new private-sector investment. “This is fundamental to our prospects of delivering real, sustainable economic growth in North-west England,” Mr Maier said. “The Northern Powerhouse and the devolution decision for Greater Manchester are a great start.”

The business leaders want to see the devolution process extended to Liverpool as early as possible, so that both city regions can thrive together.

The business group, which is backed by the universities of Manchester, Liverpool and Lancaster as well as the accountancy firms EY and PwC, local policymakers and MPs, also wants to see greater collaboration across the Pennines to drive growth throughout the North. They argue that this can only be achieved by accelerating investment in infrastructure such as the long-overdue HS2 project.

Making the region more attractive to technology and science-based SMEs is top of the agenda. The manifesto says that the sub-regions of the North must have venture capital in place to support science and innovation companies, and back commercial opportunities coming out of universities.

The region is already a leader in fields such as advanced materials and energy research. data intensive science and the life sciences, and should be building on this reputation by bringing in new investment, says the report. Mr Maier said a Talent Bank could be set up in the region to promote engineering careers to students, working closely with national careers services.