Letter to The Rt. Hon Rishi Sunak, MP Chancellor of the Exchequer

This letter from Martin Bellamy and Lord David Triesman, was sent on 8 September 2020.

Dear Chancellor,

The response from you and your team to the early-stage economic fallout of the pandemic has been significant.

But, now we must now turn urgently from job preservation to job creation to create a country that is fit for not just a post-COVID future, but a post Brexit one as well – all while ensuring the country meets its net-zero targets by 2050. 

Fundamentally, that means investing and supporting innovation across the country.

Your Government’s commitment to “level up” the UK’s regions and provide a path to prosperity for everyone, regardless of geography is very welcome. However, efforts to level up must be truly national, and the South West has a clear and distinct role to play here.

The South West has tremendous potential to quickly become a hub of economic – and clean – growth in the UK; the Government’s support for the Western Gateway and plans to “promote a clean, green recovery” and “level up” in the process make that potential all the clearer. 

As you know, the South West already has the foundations in place to drive a green recovery. The area is already home to seven Government enterprise zones which would aid a green growth charge. World leaders such as GENeco, Viridor and Suez Environmental are already embedded in the region and are accelerating the transition to a circular economy with their innovative projects in biomass and waste-to-energy.

But the government must commit to aligning existing funds and programmes to expedite jobs, and invest new funds into delivery to ensure that these foundations are capitalised on and quickly. A ‘joined up’ approach across Government to align growth potential with resources in a timely way is going to be critical to success.

Big picture thinking, mapping existing investment programmes and aligning with growth opportunities to add value, could create golden opportunities to achieve demonstrable success for the UK.

Ensuring  Bristol  – the first UK city to be awarded the European Green Capital Award – and a UK’s leading smart city – is one of the ‘freeports’ announced later this year, enabled by the 5G Create programme and rail restoration, will be crucial to building on the already strong knowledge and innovation platforms, underpinned by digital capability and green credentials.

Access to a freeport with scalable advanced manufacturing facilities will be the difference needed to enable the UK to compete for international investment and attract the companies of tomorrow. If it brought someone like Tesla to the South West, by offering them destination sites, connectivity, high levels of service through import and export facilities, the benefits would be far more than purely economic: A new innovative industry, thousands of long-term, green jobs and a move toward the net-zero carbon targets in one fell swoop. 

And investment into helping more commercial space to foster innovative industry be built and be established is needed. Your recent announcement of  ‘to deliver public investment projects more strategically and efficiently’ is welcome in this respect.

Investment into simplified planning and digital consultation would be welcome to collaborate and drive new best practice to realise economic outcomes.

Business is ready and waiting for you to deliver on ‘Project Speed’. Not only identifying but progressing shovel-ready projects as fast as possible with minimum fuss will be key. The South West – which already has green and clean clusters – has many projects that can act as blueprints for the nation.

Gravity is a UK site for inward investment. Based in the South West, already hosting the Hinkley Point C and Hinkley Connection National Infrastructure Projects, the region has an excellent track record in leading and managing complex projects in the national interest. (Lord Triesman draws your attention to his interests as recorded in the Parliamentary Register).

Gravity with over 600 acres of land available, is purpose-built to support the innovative, sustainable giants of tomorrow. We would be a perfect fit for the electric-vehicle enabling gigafactories which DIT is trying to attract investment into — which would enable the South West to lead on the next generation of automotive technologies –  complimenting and strengthening existing facilities in Bristol and Bath, such as the National Composite, Robotics and Advanced Propulsion centres.

Manufactured @Gravity, transported out by a restored rail line to Bristol port for export.

A centre for smart mobility and transport innovation, Gravity has ambitions to operate as a live lab to test solutions for the future from e-scooters and smart infrastructure, a significant opportunity for government and the Department of Transport.

Imagine, with just a one-hour commute, you would find three of the world’s top 100 universities, the proposed freeport at Bristol and the main UK campuses of huge innovators such as Dyson and Airbus. Within just this potential cluster you have the potential for a vertically-integrated green powerhouse: From idea generation, to assembly, to shipment — with thousands of jobs and social value created at each stage.

The business community has welcomed the Government’s collaboration in working together to overcome the worst of the problems presented by the pandemic. This must be continued, and even accelerated. It is only by working together that we will create jobs for the millions of workers displaced by the pandemic, efficiently plan and deliver infrastructure and find innovative ways to grow greenly.

Post-Covid Britain has to the potential to be cleaner, greener, healthier and more productive and we must now take this opportunity to strike out and make a real difference, and quickly.

Yours sincerely.

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