April 2024 Director’s Blog

Investment Zone

The first thing I wanted to update on is progress in the Region’s £160 million Investment Zone.

Our Open Call for project funding bids has generated substantial interest from across the Region – and far beyond our initial expectations.

This is a great result and proof that the companies in the sectors in which we have placed our focus are dynamic, growing and are determined to be part of this exciting opportunity.

Ambitious projects that make the final selection will be able to benefit from a range of investment, tax reliefs and other incentives, further boosting our Regional economy and creating quality jobs and training opportunities for our residents.

At the close of the Open Call which ran from January until the end of March 2024, almost £2 billion worth of project funding bids were submitted over 41 key projects.

Businesses eligible to bid for funding have be based within three key sectors: Life Sciences; Advanced Manufacturing and Precision Engineering; Digital and Enabling Technologies.

Analysis carried out last year by the Region’s Intelligence Hub confirmed these sectors offer the best potential for growth and investment, with an estimated 500 businesses based in these sectors across the Region’s eight council areas. You can read more about the ground-breaking work by the Intelligence Hub to identify the Region’s Innovation Clusters and how it underpinned the selection of the key sectors for the Investment Zone.

Project bids have to provide at least 60% of the project funding which would then be matched by 40% of public funding in capital / revenue investment or tax incentives through the Investment Zone.

The 41 project applications received indicated a total match funding / private sector investment of over £1 billion, with bids provided across all three of the priority sectors.

The applications will now be reviewed and assessed over the coming weeks, as part of the process to collate the Region’s formal proposal including the final package of projects, for consideration and approval by the UK and Scottish Governments.

Intelligence Hub briefing

Our latest Intelligence Hub briefing has been issued.

Findings show the economy is beginning to recover from technical recession, with a positive uptick in business activity noted at the beginning of 2024. This improvement is fuelled by an optimistic business outlook, although concerns about inflation and weak demand persist.

Employment figures are strong, marked by a record number of employees on payrolls and low unemployment rates, yet economic inactivity poses ongoing challenges, underscoring the need for targeted interventions at those furthest away from the labour market.

Despite a slight GDP increase attributed to population growth, productivity gains remain minimal. Real GDP per capita has been on a decline since early 2022 and is projected to only modestly recover by 2025, staying almost 1% below previous predictions. In response, the UK government is focusing on boosting public sector productivity, with digital transformation identified by the Productivity Institute as a key strategy to tackle financial strains from an ageing population and increasing tax burdens.

Business and Community Benefits from our City Deal

As part of a recent campaign for Scottish Apprenticeship Week, we issued an update on benefits to local businesses and communities being delivered through our City Deal contracts.

Our City Deal is delivering a number of high-profile infrastructure projects that are changing the physical landscape – including new roads, bridges and cycle routes to improve connectivity and access to work, as well as extensive remediation works which have underpinned all three of the Region’s Innovation Districts.

The Deal is also bringing vital social and economic benefits to thousands of local young people, residents, communities and businesses over its lifetime through the many contract opportunities for local businesses and from the specific requirement set by the Region for City Deal contractors to provide jobs, work experience, training and support for qualifications for targeted groups and young people. In fact, over 1,500 local young people, communities and businesses have already benefitted.

Local people have benefitted from 330 employment opportunities through the Region’s City Deal to date. Figures to date show that City Deal contractors have delivered 80 Apprenticeships and 226 New Entrant positions as part of community benefits requirements written into their contracts. 

You can hear from some of the City Deal apprentices directly – Greg Irving at GRAHAM and Cameron Lawson at Morrison Construction explain how these opportunities have provided a vital start to their careers. 

In terms of business opportunities, local companies have won over £150 million worth of Tier One City Deal contracts, 57% of all Tier 1 contracts. This equates to over 130 local companies winning 272 City Deal contracts.

GCR Team

As a final point, the PMO team has been further boosted. Ross Nimmo has joined the team as Head of Place. A planner by profession, Ross’ career has spanned the public and private sectors, most recently as the Head of Planning and Development at AGS airports where he worked closely with many organisations across the Region. His role as Head of Place will involve supporting a number of Regional initiatives including establishing a new Regional Spatial Planning sub-committee, developing a GCR Place team that will help deliver tangible outcomes across key policy aspirations and creating a strategic masterplan for Clyde Mission.

A further team of three have also joined the PMO to support the UK Government funded 5G Innovation Regions project, and I will update more on this in a future blog.

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