Region Poised to take a Giant Leap Forward

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In this month’s blog, I want to provide an update on some recent exciting developments in terms of funding, investment and resource. I’ll also give a flavour of what’s coming up in the next six months, particularly in terms of a green recovery.

In March the Region was successful in securing £675,000 from the Scottish Government’s Regional Recovery Fund Programme. This funding is supporting 11 additional projects which fall under three priority areas: Acceleration of City Deal projects, Economic Recovery and Community Wealth Building. 

We also secured a commitment from both the UK and Scottish Governments to an acceleration of £65 million City Deal funding – evidence of a successful City Deal programme to date, since our spending has continued to be ahead of the grant. Ultimately, this will allow expedition of our City Deal projects, where possible, and it will provide savings on borrowing costs.

In terms of investment, we welcomed news of 1,000 new high value jobs coming into the City Region– 500 jobs to Glasgow from the Cabinet Office and 500 Foreign and Commonwealth Office jobs to East Kilbride. The UK Government estimates that the direct impact of this on the GCR economy will be £60 million GVA.  I mentioned before plans by the BBC to move the news technology team to Glasgow as well as the development of a major new £119 million studio based at the Kelvin Hall. This is expected to be one of the largest film and TV studios in the UK and proof of our growing reputation as a centre of creative and media excellence. 

In the past few months, the PMO team has been boosted both in number and capacity, and our structures have been refreshed and strengthened to support the increasing Regional agenda.  

In collaboration with Public Health Scotland, we recruited a new role to ensure tackling health inequalities through economic development activities are embedded into our decision-making process. A dedicated senior officer has been appointed to work alongside the Scottish Government on the Clyde Mission, one of our key strategic projects. Further resource will support work on Community Wealth Building and we are recruiting four new graduate posts. Our Intelligence Hub, set up in August 2019, is now well established and making an important contribution in economic research and intelligence support for policy decisions, at both a Regional and local authority level.

An extensive review of Regional groups and structures was carried out at the end of last year. Findings will inform delivery structures across the Region for the new Regional Economic Strategy and some changes have been introduced to strengthen our governance and effectiveness.

What’s next?

Like all major cities and regions, we have suffered from the impact of the pandemic. However, I firmly believe that Glasgow City Region is in a better position than most.

We have a great team, a strong partnership and are working closely with both the UK and Scottish Governments to accelerate ambitious Regional transformation and a green recovery.

In fact, in the next six to seven months, the Region is poised to take a giant leap forward…

Progress will be decided on two major transport initiatives. The outcome of our Regional bid for Bus Partnership funding which could bring in up to £250 million of investment should be announced soon. And in autumn this year Transport Scotland’s Phase 2 report setting out Scotland’s long-term transport investment priorities will be released and will seal the fate of plans for a Regional Metro which could transform our Region, support thousands of jobs and bring enormous environmental benefits. A series of related feasibility studies will also be concluded by then to support a business case.

As we prepare to welcome COP26 in November, we’ll see various Regional climate adaption and mitigation initiatives well underway, including our first Regional Climate Adaption Strategy and the formal launch of our Clyde Climate Forest which will involve 18 million trees planted in both urban and rural parts of Glasgow City Region over the next ten years. That works out at ten new trees for every one of our residents.

In September, plans for a Regional Energy Retrofit programme will also take a big step forward, with the completion of the feasibility study that will set the road ahead for an initiative which is set to be five times the size of the City Deal programme. This project will create a significant number of jobs, contribute to UK Government and Scottish Government commitments to achieve net-zero carbon emissions and help reduce fuel poverty. The study is one of the projects being funded by the Scottish Government RRF funding I mentioned earlier.

In the coming months, we will see the outcomes from these 11 vital RRF projects which are underpinning our economic recovery, some of which are extremely innovative.  For example, the Region is leading the way in supporting inclusive digital innovation, with plans for a new Community Wealth Building Digital Lab that will bring together academics from the University of Glasgow, tech experts and local communities.

The new project will address the significant innovation constraints that prevent small and medium-sized firms from competing with ‘big tech’ and venture capital-funded scale-ups in developing and launching new applications.

This really is a fantastic project. The barriers are simply too high for ordinary people and small businesses who want to launch new digital innovation applications. Not only is it expensive, requiring particular tech expertise – but there is usually always one dominant company that has cornered the market. Just think about how we buy online, how we sell online or even order transport or food.

We can see some very exciting opportunities for community organisations to grow their market share through developing innovation-led products and services that will enable them to flourish in a dynamic and highly competitive sector -while we are nurturing and keeping the expertise and also the profits local.  

The RRF grant will fund an initial scoping study.  

Funding and Investment will continue to be a major focus – attracting further funding to the Region will be vital to help us kick start the economy.

We will issue a Green Regional Investment prospectus – more about that next month. 

And our eight member authorities are currently developing bids for UK government levelling up funding, to be submitted in the coming weeks.

In the months ahead, we will continue to work with government partners to align discussions around funding for and acceleration of our key strategic projects that have the potential to transform the physical, social and economic fabric of our Region for generations to come – including the Clyde Mission, a Regional Metro system, the Scottish Events Campus expansion which requires £150 million, our new emerging national Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMIDS) and Ravenscraig, once one of Europe’s largest derelict sites.

These initiatives have the capacity to deliver enormous economic benefits at a Regional, national and UK level in the medium to long term and are crucial to the Region’s recovery and future success beyond it.

We’ll see a further boost to Financial Services with the completion of the new Barclays campus, the most significant inward investment ever made in Scotland, bringing 2,500 new jobs and breathing new life into the south side of the river at Tradeston.

Our City Deal, vital for protecting local jobs, will continue to progress. We will be launching the latest City Deal contract pipeline at the Meet the Buyer event on 8th June which we are co-hosting. This is an opportunity for local businesses to find out more about £120 million worth of infrastructure contract opportunities and how they can make the most of the City Deal.

Our bid for a Glasgow City Region Greenport will be submitted in the next couple of months.  And by late 2021 we will launch a refreshed Regional Economic Strategy.

There is a lot going on. But you can keep up to date on progress – visit our new Glasgow City Region website and follow us on twitter.

Kevin Rush is Director of Regional Economic Growth at Glasgow City Region

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