Tony Danker, the new head of the CBI, nailed it when he told a recent Bloomberg conference that in emerging from the current crisis, we mustn’t repeat the same mistakes that followed the economic crash of 2008.
Instead, the country needs a 1945 moment - a long-term Industrial Strategy that plots a clear routemap for creating shared economic growth. For it to succeed, politicians, businesses, unions, civil society and academia will need to work together.
Six years ago, in Hammersmith & Fulham, we began bringing together all the necessary factors for our first-of-its-kind Industrial Strategy which we launched in 2017 in partnership with Imperial College London. We are building our borough into a global economic hotspot for creative, media and STEM industries. And by aligning life-long education, infrastructure planning and the needs of business, we propose to bring our residents some of the best jobs and start-up opportunities anywhere in the world.
We’ve drawn lessons from many other successful economic models, including the German Länder which have been crucial to in the Federal Republic’s 75-year economic miracle and the Bay Area, particularly replicating the practical links between Stanford University, government agencies, and the vibrant tech sector.
Unlike Germany, UK local government has few hard powers to organise the factors for good economic growth. But with the right vision and relationships it can exercise huge soft power which accelerates innovation and jobs.
Since 2017, 4,000 jobs have been created in our borough with ITV and global multinationals such as Novartis, moving in alongside bio-tech pioneers like Synthace and Autolus.
Danker recognises what we’ve experienced: STEM industries offer the UK winning potential in tackling climate change, the pandemic and other global challenges. Over 60 life science businesses have been created, grown or moved into our borough in just four years. To accommodate this expansion, we have changed our Local Plan to deliver nearly 600,000 sq ft of affordable, flexible office space.
In 2018, together with Imperial, we launched Upstream, an organisation charged with attracting anchor businesses, supporting start-ups and linking them with our Industrial Strategy.
Our new Translation & Innovation Hub (I-Hub) and the Sir Michael Uren Hub for biomedical engineering allow corporates and start-ups to work alongside Imperial academics in modern office and lab space, where research is turned into commercial applications. Which is exactly what we’ve seen – STEM start-ups, grown in Hammersmith & Fulham, responding quickly with the innovations that tackle the pandemic.
Those innovations have ranged from the high-speed COVID-19 test kits now used in NHS hospitals, new reporting software to speed up the return to work, new digital platforms for monitoring shielding residents to a ground-breaking device which reduces the mortality rate of COVID sufferers. What began as start-ups, based in and around our White City Innovation District, are now thriving businesses, generating jobs and wealth and even saving lives. In the last five years, White City Incubator companies have raised over £100m.
For over a decade, national politicians have shied away from plotting a British economic renaissance. There are many lessons from the pandemic, but one we must learn is if we adopt a smarter approach, that brings together business, academia, education, and local government, we can kickstart the UK economy, deliver well-paid jobs and rise to the challenges of the day.
Leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham
Cllr Stephen Cowan