LEP’s ‘bold vision’ to make Swindon & Wiltshire an innovation centre

By Anita Jaynes on 5 April, 2014

The Swindon & Wiltshire Local Economic Partnership (LEP) has submitted a plan to the Government to develop the region into one of the most innovative in the country. Calling for further investment to secure future growth in the local economy.

Whilst the LEP and Unitary Authorities are already doing a great deal to drive growth in the local economy, additional support from the Government is needed to accelerate and support various projects, which will deliver rapid yet sustainable growth.

The SEP, titled ‘Aligning Local Innovation with Government Ambition’, sets out a bold vision and transformational economic growth programme for the area. By 2026, Swindon and Wiltshire wants to be recognised as a UK leader of innovation with a digital infrastructure that is second to none. It will also be the heart of the British Army and a thriving network of Higher Education Centres.

This will be achieved by focusing on four areas, each of which present significant opportunities for economic growth: innovation, military, town centres and unlocking urban expansion.

Innovation has long been a defining feature of Swindon and Wiltshire’s economy. It is currently driven by the presence of businesses like Dyson, Honda, BMW and Intel, as well as the military. The SEP identifies measures that need to be taken in order to maintain and develop this unique infrastructure of innovation.

Army 2020, the Government’s reforms to the British Army, will lead to over 4,000 more troops moving to the area and the MOD will also be investing over £1bn in the area over the coming years. Therefore, there is clearly a huge opportunity, and responsibility, for Swindon and Wiltshire to accommodate the growth of the military population and capitalise on the economic opportunities.

Investment is also needed in many town centres, making them more attractive places to live, work and visit. The SEP identifies multiple locations within Swindon and Wiltshire where additional investment would accelerate the improvement of town centres and enhance the experience that they offer.

The new eastern villages in Swindon are the single largest urban extension in the country, with 8,000 homes planned by 2026. Swindon and Wiltshire’s SEP aims to accelerate the delivery of this urban expansion, as well as others across the county.

The SEP also identifies three growth zones where there is a combination of high economic activity and capacity for economic growth – Swindon, the A350 corridor and South Wiltshire. These areas provide a geographical focus on which the SEP has been built. Further evidence to support our SEP can also be found in the Local Economic Assessment and Transport Vision 2026.

The Minister for Cities, the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, said: “The Government welcomes the Strategic Economic Plan that Swindon and Wiltshire LEP has published and looks forward to continued engagement with local civic and business leaders over the next few months on the negotiation of their Growth Deal.

The Growth Deal provides a fantastic opportunity for Swindon and Wiltshire LEP to seek freedoms, flexibilities and influence over resources from Government, and a share of the Local Growth Fund to put towards their the growth priorities set out in this Strategic Economic Plan. This provides the opportunity to unleash the ambition and creativity of Swindon and Wiltshire’s local leaders, by devolving resource and responsibility in return for compelling local economic leadership in pursuit of growth.”

The Minister of State for Transport, Baroness Kramer, said: “As one of the Local Growth Ministers, I am pleased to say we have received the Strategic Economic Plan published by Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership. LEPs are proving highly effective engines for economic growth at local and regional levels.

This is an exciting time for local communities who are showing real leadership in driving growth. Government looks forward to supporting LEPs in their efforts to generate jobs and stimulate growth.”

The Swindon and Wiltshire Strategic Economic Plan March 2014 and supporting evidence is available in full on the Local Enterprise Partnership’s website www.swlep.biz