Northern Powerhouse – The Biggest Commercial Conversation in a Generation.

Play Exhibition VideoWe recently sponsored the UK Northern Powerhouse Conference, which took place in Manchester on 21st and 22nd February. The conference was attended by over 2,500 delegates, including overseas delegations from the governments of China and India, 75 exhibitors, almost 100 speakers and over 600 for the Northern Lights Awards Dinner.

The conference coincided with the launch of our report with IPPR North (Institute for Public Policy Research), looking at the funding and financing issues relating to infrastructure in the Northern Powerhouse region.

Our involvement with the Northern Powerhouse agenda continues as Infrastructure Partner, Andrew Herring, sits on the Northern Powerhouse Advisory Board. The board is chaired by Lord Kerslake and has been set up to assist with the continued development of the UK Northern Powerhouse.

 View our short Northern Powerhouse round up videos here.

Rail Infrastructure for the Northern Powerhouse: On the Right Track?

Rail transport infrastructure is an essential component for the success of the Northern Powerhouse. The government vision for the future of the North’s rail system is clear – improved journey times and train frequencies that connect the main city regions and the North’s largest airport, with better connections to the wider network.

Spring 2016 saw Transport for the North publish an update of the Northern Transport Strategy – originally published in 2015 – identifying further progress on the long-term transport investment programmes, including in rail, road and associated schemes such as smart ticketing needed to deliver the key transport infrastructure elements of the Northern Powerhouse.

Following this, the government published its Northern Powerhouse Strategy in November 2016. The strategy confirmed a commitment to provide £13 billion in transport in the North over the course of its parliament, including approximately £1.2 billion for upgrading the existing rail franchises in the North and £60 million development funding for Northern Powerhouse Rail, the key rail project to improve connectivity between the cities of the North.

The intention? To invest in rail and other transport infrastructure to transform transport links that help re-balance the economy, drive the process of agglomeration and close the economic gap between the North and South, which on current figures is underpinned by a 25% productivity gap with the South.

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Paying for Our Progress: How Will the Northern Powerhouse Be Financed and Funded?

Report Front CoverWe recently partnered with the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) to examine one of the most important challenges facing the Northern Powerhouse – financing and funding.

The report investigates the differing streams of finance and funding that are potentially available, and looks at the policy and other challenges that exist in the delivery of significant infrastructure to support the economic development of the Northern Powerhouse region.

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Northern Powerhouse receives £556 million increase in funding

InvestThe Northern Powerhouse is to receive a £556 million increase in funding, which will be specifically focussed on enhancing science and business performance in the region. Despite the exact proposals for the distribution of funds being currently unconfirmed, a number of different projects have been unveiled. Specifically, the Greater Manchester and Cheshire Life Sciences Fund will receive £10 million to support local businesses, Blackpool will receive a state-of-the-art conference centre and hotel to boost the town’s economy and conference capabilities and a manufacturing park will be constructed in the Sunderland area, which will help to create over 5,000 jobs. Investment will also be injected into the Goole intermodal terminal, which will provide an integrated transport facility for business by combining rail, sea, motorway and inland waterway routes into one site.

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A Revolution in the North? Industry 4.0

In 2015, the government announced several regional Science and Innovation Audits (SIAs) with the intention of encouraging local associations to analyse areas of regional strengths and realise their potential.

A recent SIA – a collaboration between two of the N8 universities, Sheffield City Region and the Lancaster Local Enterprise Partnership – suggests that the Northern Powerhouse has the potential to usher in “a fourth industrial revolution” in the UK, through the integration of modern technologies into manufacturing.

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UK Northern Powerhouse International Conference & Exhibition 2017

npcon16logoWe are delighted to be involved in the UK Northern Powerhouse International Conference & Exhibition for a second year. The event will take place at Manchester Central on 21-22 February 2017.

The first UK Northern Powerhouse International Conference & Exhibition was held in Manchester last year and was a huge success. It was attended by more than 2,500 business leaders, with 55 high quality speakers, around 100 exhibition stands and over 500 attendees for a black tie dinner. The conference laid the basis for the UK Northern Powerhouse Outcomes Report that was launched in Parliament on 25 April 2016.

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Education in the Northern Powerhouse

The Northern Powerhouse concept is approaching a crucial time in its development – in order for it to succeed it is vital that the north can harness the three key elements required for economic growth: “research”, “innovation” and “skills”, and in order for this to happen a large emphasis is being placed on the future of the region’s education system.

Recently there has been a lot of focus on underperforming schools in the north. Back in February Offsted’s chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, was quoted in The Guardian as saying that the whole Northern Powerhouse initiative could “sputter and die” if youngsters in the north are not given the education and skills they need to succeed later in life. This is true, however higher level (e.g. graduate) skills are just as important. If the north is to enjoy an increase in prosperity it is vital that its higher education institutions continue to produce good quality graduates, and that local job markets and infrastructures are sufficient enough to keep these graduates and their families living  in the area. With 29 universities in the Northern Powerhouse region (seven of which are part of the research focused Russell Group)  producing approximately 78,000 graduates a year, the potential is clear to see – and with their renowned research, science and manufacturing facilities, the north’s universities can certainly hold their own against anything currently available in the south.

However, as well as providing first-class training for graduates, we also need to ensure that higher education institutions are able to provide the research, technology, innovation and support for graduate business startups. Key to meeting this goal will be collaboration between the universities of the region, and a great example of this can be seen in 2015’s “Yorkshire Innovation Fund” – an initiative in which a number of universities partnered to provide funding and assistance to innovative small business in the region. The project was a great success and contributed approximately £1.32 million to the Yorkshire economy, proving what is possible when large institutions pool their resources and work together. With the economic windfalls gained from initiatives such as this, coupled with a steady supply of ambitious, intelligent northern graduates, education has cemented itself as a major cog in the wheel of the Northern Powerhouse.

Lambert Smith Hampton’s Northern Powerhouse Office Market Report 2015/16

Occupier and investor confidence across the Northern Powerhouse office markets is riding high, according to The Northern Powerhouse Office Market Report 2015/16, published by Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH).

The report shows strong performance across the eight key markets[1] – with combined take-up expected to reach 5.2m sq ft by the end of the year – illustrating that occupier confidence in the region is riding high.

Manchester city centre is undeniably leading the way and is on track for a record year, with almost 1.4m sq ft of office space expected to be let or sold – well above the 10-year annual average of 966,000 sq ft.

The picture is also extremely positive in Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield, with only Liverpool predicted to see activity fall short (albeit marginally) of its annual average in 2015.

Skyscraper Business Office, Corporate building in London City, England, UK

Tony Fisher, National Head of Office Agency at LSH, said: “The office market across the Northern Powerhouse is undoubtedly in a strong position. Confidence is high and the best performing cities are benefiting from strong demand. Both in the traditionally dominant sectors of finance and professional services, as well as emerging sectors like Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT).

“With a rise in the number of London-based companies looking to rebalance their regional operations, largely to avoid the rising costs of the Capital, it bodes well for sustaining the Northern Powerhouse initiative in the coming months and years.”

The five core Northern Powerhouse cities of Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield saw over £1bn of office assets change hands from Q1 to Q3 in 2015, and the figure looks set to run close to 2014’s £1.42bn record.

As well as analysing the region’s office market, the report looks at the importance of investing in the region’s transport infrastructure, the changing workforce and how the Northern Powerhouse can take advantage of the region’s highly-skilled talent pool and relative cost effectiveness in comparison to London to forge new global centres of excellence.

The region’s track record in fostering high-tech, high growth Knowledge Intensive Business Services clusters – such as MediaCity in Salford and the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham – is a source of competitive advantage and must be driven forward, says the report.

Click here to see the full report from Lambert Smith Hampton.

Full Steam Ahead Please

The quality of the North’s trade links, both nationally and worldwide, will be an essential factor in its bid to become a united force able to compete globally. In Manchester Airport the North already has a world-class global hub, providing access to key cities around the world.  This, along with the regions other smaller airports, will be critical to the development of the Northern economy and the drive for additional inward investment. However there is another string to the North’s economic bow which is easily overlooked, yet plays an equally important role in promoting the region in terms of international trade – its ports.

From Sunderland to Liverpool there are a multitude of ports scattered across the north of England, many of which are undergoing rapid development and expansion. Peel Ports’ new deep water container terminal in Liverpool will be the most centrally located terminal of its kind within the UK, offering a unique opportunity to bring large vessels closer to the country’s industrial, manufacturing and consumer heartland. This facility is a significant “feather in the cap” for Liverpool, as it not only empowers the city to be the national gateway and transhipment hub for Ireland, but also reaffirms its position as the UK’s leading transatlantic port, enabling direct market connections to the Americas, India, the Far East, Caribbean, Mediterranean and the Baltics.

Similar initiatives are taking place across the North, such as a major investment by Associated British Ports into the Port of Hull, in addition to significant investments at the ports of Immingham and Goole. The Port of Tyne is also understood to be planning a circa £180 million redevelopment scheme, whilst PD Ports continues with its own expansion plans at Teesport.

The rise of port-centric warehousing, and the increasing volume of freight traffic arriving in Northern ports, places the North at the centre of the UK’s freight and logistics industry. The current capacity of distribution networks in the region will not meet future demand for effective freight movement, therefore real investment in strategic distribution networks (with rail critical to the movement of freight) is absolutely essential to ensure an efficient and sustainable solution which will enable the North to unlock its global potential.

Being an eminent presence in the landscape of Northern business, with offices in Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham, we understand that if this potential is to be reached then the region must have a rock solid infrastructure in place. To this end we have undertaken work for numerous Northern clients in the transport sector, in matters relating to transportation, shipping, logistics, infrastructure and aviation.

All of the above elements form part of a clear, integrated plan that will help to transform the currently fragmented North into one economic area. Transport for the North, and other key stakeholders, now have the opportunity to create the infrastructure for a single market for people, goods, skills and innovation that will empower the region to compete globally. “Full steam ahead please”!

So what does the Northern Powerhouse really mean?

Skyscraper Business Office, Corporate building in London City, England, UK

The Northern Powerhouse is a well coined phrase, but what does it actually mean for the firms, businesses and people of the North?

The concept championed by UK Chancellor George Osborne, has steadily gained momentum. The idea is becoming more tangible and there has been some early success. PwC data reveals that Northern areas are already benefitting from falling unemployment rates and above average ratings for housing affordability (the Business Desk). In fact, Northern Powerhouse cities are developing faster than other areas, with Manchester and Liverpool experiencing “good growth”(PWC) and the North East and Leeds City region showing job creation rates of more than double the national rate.  However, the aspiration to develop a Northern hub is not new; it was John Prescott who first had a vision for the “Northern Way” back in 2003, whilst in his role as deputy prime minister and of course the North was the beating heart of the industrial revolution.

The Northern Powerhouse means investment; and that is something which is overdue in the North. London benefits from £5,203 more per head on capital investment than the North-East. If the government invested the same proportion of its total research and development budget in the North as most businesses do, it would spend £179 million on the North. Key areas for investment are skills, innovation and infrastructure. The North is disconnected; for example there should currently be 40% more commuters between Leeds and Manchester, given their physical proximity. With the necessary funding, the North can be more connected, efficient, productive and therefore, more successful.

At Squire Patton Boggs we see a unified Northern economy as an opportunity. Having offices in Manchester and Leeds, we are excited about benefiting from better connectivity between our offices and with our clients. We feel that the regions and major cities which make up the North are stronger together. If the North of England were a national economy it would be the tenth largest in the EU. Reduced dependency on London, through the creation of a second strong economy in the country, will lead to a more balanced distribution of business and wealth.

We believe that Northern businesses, authorities and other bodies should collaborate to ensure that the Northern Powerhouse has presence on a national and international stage. Once Northern development is underway the hope is that the area will become a magnet for new business and overseas investment. As an international firm with local connections and expertise in sectors such as construction and projects, manufacturing and the chemical industry, we are in a great position to work with businesses as they grow within the context of the Northern Powerhouse.