Nathan Jardine writes leaders for The Information Daily and Council News Monitor. After a lifetime in Fleet Street he now divides his time between homes in France and the north-west of England. He enjoys drinking, eating, sleeping and poking fun. His autobiography A Dog's Life is unaccountably out of print.


The "Southern Powerhouse" sets out its stall


© davidhc - Traffic for Heathrow

The Innovation South Consortium has undergone a science and innovation audit by Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Following the commission of a science and innovation audit by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy last year, the Innovation South Consortium has published a report dubbing 8 counties south of London, 'Innovation South'. The report identifies Kent, Surrey, the Isle of Wight, Hampshire, East and West Sussex, Berkshire and Dorset, as "a globalised region, with highvalue, digitally-enabled innovaton; a powerhouse of research strengths; a strong commercialisaton culture; and dynamic businesses and industries to match."

Embracing well over 100 private and public sector organizations across the south of England, the Innovation South Consortium identified four high-tech sectors that have flourished in the south: Connected Digital, Marine and Maritime, Bioscience and Advanced Engineering. These industries contribute to the £225.3 billion total economic output of the region, which equates to 13.7% of the national product. 

The report goes on to discuss the research strengths and innovation capabilities held in 'Innovation South'. These include the digital communications such as the development of 5G connectivity; Cyber Security; Big data analytics; Photonics; and quantum technologies. The southern region identified in the report already has a wealth of institutions to establish UK as world leaders in these technologies. 

The report acknowledges that road and rail links are congested and "unreliable and inadequate transport systems, coupled with high housing costs, are a persistent obstacle to maximising the region’s potental". However the South’s digital infrastructure is better than the rest of UK’s it is claimed.

Excellent (international) transport links, a wealth of universities, as well as an extensive array of international businesses, such as Fujitsu, Huwaei, Microsoft and IBM, make the southern region a key aspect of UK economy. While not unique to the south, the report cites the region as being "in a excellent position to support national growth, global competitiveness and to step up to economic challenges" in the future.

While it is clear that the south already occupies a top level position in the development of digital enabling technologies, it is also clear that "there is huge potental for Innovaton South to be greater than the sum of its parts." Like the Northern Powerhouse, Innovation South is locally ambitious, but ultimately the collective movement of tech industry will allow UK PLC to remain at the forefront of innovation, and lead the technological development of services around the world.

This report is important if for no other reason than it describes and defines a large part of the playing field on which regional local governments will need to compete in the future. The advantage of the "excellent international transport links" in the south is undeniable. A compelling argument for those considering inward investment. The argument for the Government and Department for Transport to go some way to leveling the playing field by ensuring that there is investment in regional airport and port infrastructure matching the investment that will be ploughed into the 3rd runway, for example, is equally compelling.



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