What the Cambridge & Peterborough Local Industrial Strategy means for Life Sciences
July saw the simultaneous launch on one day of no less than four Local Industrial Strategies; South East Midlands, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and our own Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority, writes Tony Jones, CEO of One Nucleus.
Not a coincidence, but a carefully choreographed approach for the four LEPs acting across the OxCam Arc initiative. The roadmaps all aim to support the National Industrial Strategy though boosting productivity in their respective regions and through collaborating.
For the region of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough the Local Industrial Strategy (LIS) sets the context of the region: Already contributing £22 billion to the UK economy; the world-class Greater Cambridge area leading in multiple areas of innovation such as Agri-Tech, Life Sciences and Advanced Manufacturing; and the differing nature and hence opportunities in Peterborough and The Fens.
These are all opportunities for growth and diversification of course, but perhaps they are also opportunities for even more innovation as technologies across industrial sectors converge. These exciting opportunities also come with challenges that we already see emerging.
Turning to Life Sciences, the LIS suggests the sector will see continued growth across Huntingdonshire and that the connectivity across the OxCam Arc will be a significant factor. The Cambridge cluster alone is reported to be home to 400 Life Science companies, employing 15,500 staff and contributing £2.9bn to the UK economy annually.
The 2017 and 2018 UK Life Science Sector Deals identified several players in the region being key to deepening the research and industry interaction. A specific focus will be on the Ageing Society Grand Challenge.
The LIS proposes a suite of new initiatives to enhance productivity and scaling of innovative businesses. These include the creation of an Innovation Launchpad, a Life Sciences Accelerator Scheme, a Mayoral Innovation and Growth Investment Fund and establishment of an Innovate 2 Grow Network across the area.
Supporting business growth will be the Cambridge and Peterborough Growth Company to bring together services such as the Growth Hub, Signpost2Grow and the Global Growth Service. Finally, there are plans for a new ‘Trade & Investment Service’ to woo inward investing firms and coordinate across the Global Growth Grants and Loans service, Department for International Trade and UK Export Finance.
On reading the LIS, seeking to distil the proposed strategy into what will benefit Life Sciences by tackling the challenges faced now and looking ahead by our members I came to the following understanding:.
Access to Finance and Business Support
The Mayoral Innovation and Growth Investment Fund along with a coordinated service that enables companies to access Government support in the shape of grants and loans is welcome.
The networking of 1000 Global Growth Champions, cloning of the business and innovation networks that have to date served Greater Cambridge well and provision of mentoring, advice and connectivity to support growth across the region should amplify the region’s innovation capacity.
Key to increasing the innovation capacity and productivity in the region has to be investment in infrastructure. Whether digital connectivity, transport, housing or R & D facilities, each has a meaningful impact on the Life Sciences sector.
The ability to recruit and retain the best people when commuting journeys, affordability of aspirational housing and high-speed broadband are limited is often a barrier to success at the business, individual and investment level for high growth firms in Life Sciences.
It is pleasing to see that the LIS proposes investment across all these areas. This will include pressing for the South Cambridge station, a £40 million revolving fund targeted at delivering more housing and delivery of the Greater Cambridge City Deal worth £1bn.
The Cambridge Metro also remains on the radar. Much more detail and work continues towards enhancing the infrastructure to enable business growth. The degree of ambition is welcome.
As mentioned earlier, the ability to recruit and retain the best people is key to any business. The magnetic pull of the Cambridge ecosystem and brand is hugely influential to Life science companies when attracting senior innovation, business and investment personnel.
There can be few better clusters for a thought leader to locate in order to test their hypothesis and skills in creating new treatments for patients. To enable their success and to grow the scale and productivity of the regional economy, however, requires a vibrant and skilled labour pool across all levels of the company.
The LIS sets out its ambition to increase the technical skills in the region through establishment of the new university in Peterborough, a skills strategy that takes maximum advantage of the devolved powers over the Adult Education Budget and continuing support to grow the uptake of apprenticeships.
The creation of the Innovation Launchpad and Life Sciences Accelerator Scheme may also add to the momentum in attracting entrepreneurs to create and grow new businesses if it is additive to the excellent schemes already in play.
The National Infrastructure Commission identified in 2018 that the continuing success of the OxCam Arc was critical to the UK achieving its target of 2.4 per cent of GDP being spent on R & D by 2027. Little wonder therefore that the UK Government, and hence the surrounding LEPs, attach a great deal of resource to its progression.
The key industries across the Arc – which include Life Sciences, Automotive, Advanced Manufacturing and Energy Technology – all see growing global markets on the horizon. Equally as exciting is the potential for world leading innovation that arises from the convergence of technology applications across these fields.
The Government, often via the relevant LEPs, Innovate UK or directly have committed significant investment to increase innovation funding, housing, digital connectivity, transport and sustainable energy.
Capitalising on this focus and support there is every opportunity to drive inward investment into the knowledge intensive industries, boost the skills agenda and open up the commuting potential between two world class Life Science research clusters in Cambridge and Oxford.
Mention is made of other regional corridors helping growth in the region, such as the London-Stansted Cambridge-Corridor and the Cambridge-Norwich Eastern Agriculture and Tech Corridor.
The former includes assets such as Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, GSK and Roche in our sector. Perhaps less obvious to many readers and policy makers from the report are the Life Science research assets such as the Quadram Institute, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and Norwich Research Park that reside in the latter yet offer equally valuable synergies.
Finishing by returning to my initial question of “What does it mean for Life Sciences?” there seem to be a variety of encouraging messages. Supporting our companies in accessing financial assistance, increased support of networking and infrastructure investment are all positive.
Such developments maximises the region’s competitiveness in terms of working and living. Considering what we need to be high on the implementation radar to maximise the benefit to Life Sciences, I would include:
- To ensure a level of sector specialism and expertise when delivering the business support such that the nuances and connectivity required locally, nationally and internationally are impactful rather than simply a process.
- The importance of place is referenced multiple times in the LIS and related publications. The success of Greater Cambridge indicates this is true, but perhaps a thought towards not just expanding the cluster but to consider the complementary nature of spaces and what specialisms fit where would be prudent.
- Ensuring support that effectively addresses barriers to global customer recruitment, appropriate laboratory space and a skilled labour pool for the high value supply chain present in our sector.
- Ensuring collaboration with neighbouring corridors such as to Oxford, London and Norwich and maximising the value proposition the wider region represents.
- Ensuring a targeted key account style approach to foreign direct investment with a robust process beyond the initial marketing and lead generation. Shaking the tree is one step, catching the apples that fall is another.