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14 August, 2008 - 04:31 By Staff Reporter

EEDA chief executive, Deborah Cadman OBE

“.....there is a danger that if there is not investment in transport, homes for people and more places for businesses to easily and simply conduct their R & D then we may see the economy not getting past this current financial instability so easily.”

BACKGROUNDER The East of England Development Agency (EEDA) is the driving force behind sustainable economic regeneration in the East of England: Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. EEDA’s vision is for the East of England to be an ideas driven region that is internationally competitive, harnesses the talent of all and is at the forefront of the low carbon economy.

Deborah Cadman OBE was recently appointed chief executive. She was chief executive of St Edmundsbury Borough Council and interim chief executive of Waveney District Council, both in Suffolk. Ms Cadman takes over from David Marlow, EEDA’s chief executive since 2003.

At St Edmundsbury, Ms Cadman has led the council to an ‘excellent’ performance rating, and to a reputation as one of the country’s top district authorities.

Her career includes roles in metropolitan and unitary councils, in a government department and with the Audit Commission, where she was a lead inspector in London. She has a strong track record of building effective and productive working relationships across the public, private and voluntary sectors, and in leading large and diverse organisations.

 

1. Yours is a complex role. What do you see as the principle demands of the position and what qualities do you bring to it? My main challenge is to ensure that we continue to work closely with all our partners in the region – local authorities, political representatives, businesses, and the voluntary and community sectors – to improve the economy of the East of England.

Now that’s no easy task, bearing in mind the current economic landscape, but I believe with a co-ordinated approach that we are pulling together, collectively we can offer the support that local businesses will need to pull through and prosper in the future.

That’s a very important part of what EEDA is doing right now. But we also have to continue with our other important work – speaking up for the region in central government, providing access to finance for entrepreneurs and innovative companies, supporting businesses via Business Link, pushing for major transport improvements at key regional bottlenecks and delivering, through partners, projects that have a real impact on communities and people’s lives.

It’s a busy agenda – but it’s an opportunity I really relish. I have extensive experience at local and national government – leading local authorities and major regeneration products – so I’m used to challenges and delivering against exacting targets. In terms of personal qualities?

I’m pragmatic and keen to progress change and want to simplify the things we do so everyone can understand the critical role EEDA plays in the region’s economic life.

I have a broad range of experience in local, voluntary and regulatory sectors and I now feel I have an opportunity to take this and put it into one of the most important jobs in the region. I have a lot of energy and a determination to succeed. 2. What would you single out as EEDA’s main achievements to date? EEDA has a budget of less than 0.5 per cent of the region’s £34.5 billion of regional public sector spending. But it has secured nearly £700 million in additional investment for the region.

This has translated into real benefits and improvements for businesses, communities, people and the region as a whole. Over the same period EEDA has created or safeguarded nearly 32,000 jobs. But I’m also pleased to see the very local impacts that we deliver – where EEDA has worked with partners to help local people open a new community facility for example.

It’s also fantastic to see the success of our work in encouraging and funding innovative companies in the region, whereby a start-up business might receive help through one of our Finance for Innovation schemes – or advice from Business Link – and then really start to grow and develop into a significant company.

It’s this mix – regenerating local areas, helping businesses grow and small very localised projects – that EEDA should be proud of.

3. In what areas do you think there is still room for improvement? The region doesn’t stand still – and neither can EEDA. We have to adapt to the changing needs of the region – and the role central government wants us to develop.

Visiting businesses across the region has given me a very clear view of the value that we deliver for the region – and also some clear pointers as to where we need to change and focus our efforts. My role is to make sure EEDA responds positively and focuses very hard on delivery. 4. What are the most pressing challenges the region faces? Definitely, the changing economic climate and the effects it is having on business and families. How we respond as a region is very important – and my priority is to work with our partners to do whatever we can to mitigate the effects of a possible economic downturn.

Of course, there are other issues that are linked into this – how innovative businesses can access finance to help bring new ideas to market and create the new jobs that we need. There are transport issues, too – key bottlenecks that hinder economic development. Whatever the case, I want all of us in the East of England to speak up for the region at a national level. 5. You take up your job at the beginning of what still may prove to be a severe economic downturn. How will these conditions affect your approach? Very much so. Businesses, and small businesses in particular, are the life-blood of the economy and need access to a full range of support to keep them going – and growing.

Business Link, which we fund in the region, has already put in place special “credit crunch” advice and information. This is one element of the pro-active role we have to take – and we are working with a number of partners on a package of regionally-focused business advice and support.

6. There are those that say that the East of England’s claim to world-class status as a technology and biotech cluster has moved backwards, not forwards, in the past 10 years. What do you make of that? The region has seen some tailing-off in cluster activity, but that trend is being addressed and reversed with our third generation science parks such as the one in Colworth, where we have just invested almost £4 million.

Others are being developed in partnership with, for example, GSK at Stevenage and BT at Martlesham. We are supporting several networks for key clusters, for biotech in Cambridge, and have a wide range of Enterprise Hubs such as at Hethel in Norfolk where so much really good work is going on. 7. EEDA receives the lowest funding of all the RDAs. Why is this? Do you think it is being punished for its success? Government does see us as a high performing region and that is true, we are only one of three regions in the UK along with London and the South East that are net contributors to the UK economy. And yes we have gone up the “world competitiveness ranking” by eight points.

But there is a £10,000 gap between us and London in terms output per head – that puts us more on a par with the South West and the Midlands. And, in fact, 1 in 5 people in the region live in poverty.

So let’s not be complacent; there is a danger that if there is not investment in transport, homes for people and more places for businesses to easily and simply conduct their R & D then we may see the economy not getting past this current financial instability so easily. Yes the prospects for long term growth are still good but we need the infrastructure to support that growth.

The other key point is that our funding helps leverage additional public and private sector funding – for every pound we use to fund projects in the region we bring in an additional 90p to benefit the region. Since 1999, that adds up to over £679 million. 8. How important is it to increase the level of funding EEDA receives? Of course, we’d like more funding as we can use that money to bring in more public and private investment to really make a difference in terms of regeneration, transport improvements and creating the best environment for business growth. The £140m we receive annually is very small in comparison to the £34 billion of regional public spending – less than 0.5 per cent. The Treasury has agreed our budget as an RDA for the next three years but we continue to lobby for a better deal for us – and the region. 9. How big an opportunity is the low carbon economy for companies in this region in particular? To what extent will this opportunity inform your approach? This is a massive opportunity for businesses in the region and we are well placed to capitalise of these opportunities. We have the biggest environmental technology cluster in the UK in Peterborough – 300 companies – and the low-carbon market is estimated to be worth £500 billion in just a couple of years time. Orbis Energy is our flagship renewable energy enterprise hub to help businesses prosper in the sector and is due to open in the autumn. 10. Can you highlight the three main goals you hope to achieve during your tenure? My view is that EEDA has got 18 months to two years to demonstrate the value that the development agency brings to the region. For me it’s a real challenge but a huge and exciting one. I would say my objectives are very clear: Firstly, to make the East of England economy the best performing in the UK. Secondly, to give EEDA a clear focus on how it can best support the region to achieve this goal. And finally, I want EEDA to be recognised for the clear value that we bring to the region.

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