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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Blueprint vision for West Coast shared

WEST Cumbria is poised to deliver more than 3,000 new jobs and a brighter, low-carbon future over the next 15 years, according to the West Cumbria Economic Blueprint.

The vision could be realised by capitalising on a potential £90bn-worth of investment in the nuclear industry and seizing new opportunities in renewable technologies.

The blueprint was unveiled by the economic development organisation, Britain’s Energy Coast, at the iconic training and conference centre, Energus, near Workington.

Around 200 delegates attended, mainly representing the vibrant mix of SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprises) and large multi-nationals which make up West Cumbria’s business fabric.

They heard speeches and presentations which urged businesses and local public sector organisations to think big and work together to help deliver what has been described as the “most exciting economic prospect in the history of West Cumbria”.

The West Cumbria Economic Blueprint is available to download at www.britainsenergycoast.co.uk.

The Blueprint features a range of activities which will help West Cumbrian companies benefit from investments in the local nuclear sector.

These investments range from new build and recycling, to storage and decommissioning, to seeking new opportunities nationally and internationally with nations such as Germany and Japan.

It also urges companies to use their specialist manufacturing and engineering capabilities to tap into existing and emerging ‘clean technologies’, such as hydro, biomass and solar. Gerry McGill, vice-chairman of Britain’s Energy Coast and senior vice president of the URS Corporation, a leading provider of engineering, construction and technical services, said: “Here in West Cumbria, we need to continue to think big and be confident about what we have to offer.

“West Cumbria is at the forefront of helping to secure Britain’s energy needs and meet the government’s low carbon economy agenda.

“Very few places are facing these significant levels of investment; we are, but we need to ensure businesses and communities feel the impact in their pockets.

“The aim of Britain’s Energy Coast is to build on the strong foundations we’ve laid in West Cumbria and elevate our efforts to the next level.

“We are here to support the economy in a variety of ways – as an advocate for the region and taking West Cumbria into a global market; as a facilitator who links ideas with funding, and, where necessary, as an organisation that intervenes to ensure action. But ultimately, success will be down to the entrepreneurs and their willingness to think big, think differently and innovate.”

The common theme which runs through the Blueprint is innovation.

It suggests the Britain’s Energy Coast brand should be promoted globally to investors as a place which encourages and supports new thinking and new ideas.

The term “innovation zone” has been coined to explain the abundance of opportunities available to businesses and inward investors in West Cumbria’s disparate but well-connected economy.

The Blueprint translates the high level economic vision for West Cumbria into seven areas for investment.

These include support for applied research, research and development/demonstration and enterprise, to the improvement of physical and digital infrastructure and quality and range of business sites – including Westlakes Science and Technology Park, near Whitehaven.

Tom Gilroy, Britain’s Energy Coast acting chief executive, said: “We have clear direction for where we are going to invest our time and money.

“We cannot get distracted from the task at hand, which is realising the economic potential of West Cumbria.”

Mr Gilroy said the Blueprint has attracted strong support nationally and locally.

Its foreword has been signed by two government ministers – Charles Hendry, minister of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, and Mark Prisk, minister of State for Business and Enterprise, Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

Mr Gilroy said: “To have this level of support from government and from departments not just focused on energy, but business development, innovation and enhancing skills, is superb.

“We cannot underestimate the strength of the Britain’s Energy Coast brand and its local and national significance.

“This is why it is essential that we deliver on what we say.”

Professor John Fyfe CBE is an independent specialist on partnerships who has provided a vital link between West Cumbria and government for more than 20 years.

He told the event that working in partnership was as important as ever.

Prof Fyfe said: “It may be a cliché, but this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we simply have to take it and with both hands.

“We may have the support of government, but at the end of the day, no one body can deliver the Blueprint in isolation.

“It is going to require the long-term commitment of the public and private sectors.

“This is the challenge West Cumbria now faces.”

The event was also an opportunity for the funders of Britain’s Energy Coast – Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, Sellafield Ltd and Nuclear Management Partners – to pledge their support.

John Clarke, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority chief executive, said: “We believe West Cumbria should be recognised as a vibrant area in which to live, work and do business, with a key role in delivering the UK’s Energy Policy.

“Key to success is positioning and developing the area as an international centre of excellence in innovative technology-based industries which provide genuine opportunities for business diversification, based upon the fundamental strengths of its nuclear capability.”

Delegates were told the next step is to develop a detailed implementation plan which will identify individual projects that will be taken forward and delivered.

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