Setting the pace for 2024: January 2024 Director’s Blog

January 2024 Director's Blog graphic

We have started 2024 at pace, with a number of exciting developments underway in January and more to follow in the months ahead.

Open Call – GCR Investment Zone

At the beginning of the month we launched the Open Call for project funding bids for our £160 million Investment Zone with a new website which provides background and technical information, and on which applications should be submitted.

This is a big milestone for the Region and a massive funding opportunity for eligible local businesses to benefit from investment, tax reliefs and other incentives over ten years. Ultimately, we will work through the formal process with UK and Scottish Government colleagues to bring together a package of ambitious projects which will further boost our innovation economy.

To be eligible to bid for funding through the open call, businesses must fall within three key sectors: Life Sciences; Advanced Manufacturing and Precision Engineering; and Digital and Enabling Technologies.

Analysis by our Intelligence Hub confirms these sectors offer the best potential for growth and investment. We estimate that there are around 500 businesses in these sectors across the Region.

Project bids must also be able to provide at least 60% of the project funding and the business should be based within the Region.

We will continue to promote the Open Call until the closing date at the end of March 2024.

Photograph of 5G Region event

5G Innovation Region launches

I mentioned last month that the Region was announced as one of ten successful 5G Innovation Regions which will share a UK Government Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) funding pot of £36 million. Our 5G project will deliver wide-ranging economic and community benefits across the social housing and health and social care sectors.

Earlier this month we held a stakeholder event to showcase the Region’s three 5G DSIT-funded projects. The session which was hosted by the Cabinet Chair, Susan Aitken, was attended by 90 stakeholders including the UK Government DSIT 5G team.

Innovation Economy

The Region’s innovation economy continues to go from strength to strength and in the year ahead we will see further progress with our Innovation Accelerator projects such as the Financial Regulation Innovation Lab which launched at the end of last year, and in the development of a detailed Innovation Action Plan.

You may have seen our social media campaign earlier this month on the innovation economy which included a short film on the Region’s Innovation Accelerator Chair, John Howie.

January also saw the launch of the Smart Things Accelerator Centre (STAC), funded through the Region’s Shared Prosperity Fund programme, which is set  to transform Glasgow into Europe’s largest smart things and IoT innovation hub.

City Deal Progress

On the City Deal, East Renfrewshire’s £22.68 million Aurs Road project started which will transform the road from a winding, single carriage road to a safer, straighter road with a new active travel route and waterside promenade overlooking Balgray Reservoir.

Detailed planning approval was granted for West Dunbartonshire’s Exxon project which means work can now begin to develop the site and surrounding area.

And following consultation the preferred route was chosen for East Dunbartonshire’s new Westerhill Development Road. The new road, part of the Council’s £34.88 million Place and Growth Programme, will ease congestion and unlock key strategic sites for investment and jobs.

Inclusive Economy

Running parallel to all of this is our ambition to create a more inclusive economy.

The Region continues to have an economy in which too many residents are not active participants. Demonstrated by high levels of economic inactivity and a growing trend in people falling out of work, this long-term problem is moving the wrong direction. Key issues such as the growing prevalence of physical and mental health conditions and a mismatch between peoples’ skills and the available opportunities contribute to the health and wealth inequalities that are long-standing issues in the Region.

For the Region to have the most inclusive major city-region economy in the UK by 2030, the first of the three missions within our Regional Economic Strategy – efforts need to cut across all our programmes.

Work on our Innovation Action Plan this year will be shaped by support from the Centre for Progressive Policy (CPP) to ensure activities are inclusive and will benefit all communities.

With input from local employers, we will continue to progress a Good Employment Charter which will support employers to create workplaces that embrace characteristics of good employment in ways that ensure fair pay, opportunity and progression to all.

As factors like pay and conditions are crucial to good work, we are progressing to make Glasgow City Region a Living Wage Place. We hope to increase the number of employers in the Region becoming accredited Living Wage Employers and the number of employees receiving an up uplift in their pay as a result.

Our Glasgow City Region Anchor Network is helping to support, champion and embed all of this work. These senior level representatives of public, private and third sector organisations will meet again in April, this time focusing on how their organisations, rooted in the Region, can use their spending power to create an inclusive Regional economy.

Future Skills is key to the success of our economy, to support the business community and provide the best life chances for our residents. I have mentioned before the various pieces of work underway including on skills gaps and shortages. In the next few months we will shape our recommendations and proposed actions for a future Regional Skills system and our asks from the Scottish Government.

Latest Economic Briefing

Findings from our Regional Intelligence Hub’s latest economic briefing show GDP forecasts for Scotland are more pessimistic than the UK which may mean a more challenging macroeconomic environment in Scotland than the rest of the UK.  The briefing also considers Declining Living Standards and the Housing Crisis.

You can sign up on our website to receive our Intelligence Hub briefings. 

The year ahead

Last year was our biggest year since the Deal was signed and, with almost £300 million of new funding, we continue to go from strength to strength and 2024 can be even bigger.

With our new Head of Place, Ross Nimmo from Glasgow Airport, starting in March we will start to make progress on Clyde Mission and the development of a Regional Spatial Strategy.

Our three big areas of focus this year will be on delivering on our existing RES programme and all of the new initiatives we were successful in attracting last year; progressing a detailed Action Plan for our innovation economy and identifying the funding to allow us to deliver that, and moving forward with a Regional Skills solution that is fit for the future.

I am confident we can make huge strides in these three areas in the next 12 months.

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