Cardiff Capital Region’s Regional Cabinet has set out its 10 priorities for the region in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Cabinet, which includes the leaders of the 10 local authorities that make up the CCR, has re-assessed the needs of the regional economy as the country comes out of lockdown and heads into recovery.
The 10 priorities come as an addendum to the CCR’s Industrial and Economic Plan, which was drawn up in early 2019 by the Regional Cabinet together with the CCR’s Economic Growth Partnership, which includes leading figures from the worlds of business, the public sector and academia.
The plan was always intended to be flexible so that it could be adapted to the changing needs of the regional economy over its 20-year lifespan. The pandemic has meant an early reassessment to make sure it still meets the needs of the region.
After consulting with the Economic Growth Partnership and other stakeholders, the Regional Cabinet endorsed five recommendations for its Strategic Response to the pandemic. These recommendations are to:
1. Avoid the crowded, immediate funding response space, to make sure that any interventions complement and do not duplicate existing business support packages
2. Adhere to the original strategic plan and its focus on industries of the future, but accelerate efforts to build clusters around medtech, data/AI, compound semiconductors, infrastructure, fintech and energy, balancing this with an approach to building local wealth
3. Revisit, adjust and adapt current investment programmes to make sure they are still fit for purpose
4. Leverage other funding sources and swiftly deploy, relevant financial tools and solutions where there is a proven viable company or proposal in order to increase business resilience and facilitate growth.
5. Establish a new “Re-building Local Economies Challenge Programme”
The 10 priorities
In addition to these five recommendations, the Regional Cabinet has set out 10 priorities to focus on as part of a phased approach to coping with and moving beyond the pandemic and its economic impact.
Under the first phase, Reaction, the priorities are:
1. Helping CCR businesses navigate the funding support packages available and identifying gaps in provision. This includes communicating information, getting feedback, and raising awareness of arising issues.
2. Building a strong evidence base to enable ongoing assessment of regional economic health. This includes working with the School of Economic Geography at Cardiff University to create a regional data dashboard of Key Performance Indicators, and getting feedback from stakeholders to identify issues and opportunities.
3. Reviewing current City Deal initiatives to make sure they align with CCR economic and social imperatives in a post-Covid 19 world. This will include accelerating our Digital Infrastructure programmes on full fibre connectivity and 5G and considering the application of a broader reskilling/ HE/ FE support programme to mirror the changing sector dynamics.
4. Ensuring entrepreneurs and start-ups get the support they need. This includes facilitating access to mentoring programmes and network groups, unlocking routes to obtain seed capital and influencing the potential creation of a bespoke shared prosperity funding programme.
5. Setting up a new Rebuilding Local Economies Challenge Programme, to capitalise on the business innovation and ingenuity seen during the crisis. Two or three challenges such as healthy ageing, foundational economy renewal, future mobility or decarbonisation, will form the focus for the new challenge funds.
In the second phase, Adaptation, the priorities are:
6. Developing new, targeted funding interventions and new investment application support mechanisms. This includes working with investment partners to create an SME Co-investment Fund to help scale up business in priority sectors
7. Supporting key businesses in the CCR priority clusters to increase their resilience and capacity for growth through increased flexibility on lending/investments. This includes consideration of alternative funding mechanisms such as convertible equities, greater flexibility in ways of assessing debt capacity, and increased use of guarantees and asset-backed securities
8. Accelerating the development of our medtech cluster through encouraging and supporting investment opportunities in medtech innovation. This will allow us to build upon the strategic opportunities for the sector and the region presented by the scale of businesses diversifying their manufacturing bases to accommodate the production of medical tools and equipment.
9. Expediting the creation of resilient industrial clusters with thriving regional ecosystems. This includes creating formal cluster bodies in priority sectors, and prioritising investment support to complement strategic cluster company inward investment activities.
10. Increasing our overall competitiveness and wealth creation as a region by improving the financial performance of medium-sized businesses. This will include focused interventions such as facilitating greater networking opportunities between CEOs, for the sharing of best practice advice and guidance.
Anthony Hunt, Chair of the Cardiff Capital Region Cabinet, said: “Individuals, businesses and communities in the Cardiff Capital Region have worked extremely hard and made major sacrifices to help curb the spread of Covid-19, support our health and care services, and keep their businesses afloat.
“The Regional Cabinet appreciates the extraordinary effort everyone has made, and is determined to make sure that in the recovery ahead our region emerges stronger, more competitive, better connected and more resilient than before.
“These 10 priorities, which taking the Challenge fund for example, involves new ways of solving intractable programmes will help ensure that we focus our collective efforts on the things that will have the greatest impact.”
Kellie Beirne, Director Cardiff Capital Region City Deal, said: “Covid-19 has challenged us all, and people, businesses and communities across our region have faced up to these challenges with determination and resolve. The months and years ahead will present us with fresh challenges as we come out of the lockdown and start to rebuild our economy.
“The economic plan and investment priorities we had already set out before this pandemic were designed to make our region better connected, more competitive and more resilient, and to make sure the full benefits of the City Deal were felt in all our communities across the region. We have taken another look at our plans and determined that the priority sectors we had identified for support are the ones that will best help our region prosper in the new economic landscape that will emerge in the wake of the pandemic.
“The 10 priorities we have set out represent where we think we can most usefully support our businesses and communities and will enable us to create a positive legacy. By taking a new approach and not simply carrying on with the old ways of doing things, we believe we can help our businesses and communities move beyond the impact of the pandemic and emerge stronger and better able to face the future with confidence.”
Frank Holmes, Chair of the Cardiff Capital Region Economic Growth Partnership said: “We have seen the power of collaboration and how delivery should be best left to the experts whether in healthcare, finance and public service.
“As physical doors close, digital doors swing open. It is critical to reconstruct for the future and not dwell on solving the problems of the past.
“The next normal is in the hands of countless decision makers and could result in a burst of innovation and productivity, more resilient industries , smarter government at all levels and a reconnected world or slower growth, less prosperity, bloated government and widening inequality with rigid borders.”