Accelerating economic growth through innovation in Leeds City Region

Earlier this month at Borg Warner in Bradford, we launched a new national partnership with Innovate UK, the Government’s innovation agency, to boost development across the Leeds City Region. This is fantastic for two reasons. Firstly, innovation drives economic growth and even better, it drives the kind of growth that benefits everyone. In addition, it was an excellent opportunity for businesses from our region to speak directly to the government about the challenges and opportunities we need to address to ensure our region is at the forefront of the driving the UK’s competitiveness.

Nationally the government has prioritised innovation within its Industrial Strategy and in Leeds City Region it is a key element of our Strategic Economic Plan that will deliver more than 35,000 additional jobs and £3.7 billion of additional annual economic output by 2036 over and above normal growth. As the UK looks to new sources of economic growth beyond Brexit, businesses and policymakers are increasingly turning towards innovation to maintain the UK’s global competiveness and create jobs and prosperity at home.

Our LEP is taking innovation very seriously indeed, which is why I am delighted that we have just launched a £9.2m European-funded programme to make it easier for SMEs – which make up 99% of our City Region’s business base – to get access to R&D support from research institutions including our nine universities. This new programme - part funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Government through our £1 billion Growth Deal - is part of a wider package of support available to businesses through our LEP Growth Service.

It is vital that city regions like ours whose invention and enterprise were the foundations on which Britain’s global competitiveness was built – increase their innovation potential. And that’s why it’s fantastic when I hear of businesses in the region doing just that. Brandon Medical - a supplier of state-of-the-art medical equipment to hospitals and veterinary surgeries in the UK and around the world - is at the forefront of product innovation. Employing a 66-strong workforce in addition to its worldwide distributor network, it is real success story for Leeds City Region. It’s also great to note that for every job at Brandon Medical, a further 1.75 jobs are created in the Leeds City Region (calculated by Ernst Young). This is because end product manufacturers like Brandon Medical require numerous suppliers to support their manufacturing and they use mainly local companies.

Speaking about the new support available from the LEP, Managing director, Graeme Hall recently commented that:

“Investing in innovation creates multiple business benefits and often leads to other opportunities for growth. We are currently looking to develop a new automation process that will ease existing capacity issues and lead to increased productivity. We plan to collaborate with Huddersfield University to develop this project and welcome this support available through the LEP that will help us and companies like ours to meet our long term growth ambitions.“

This example of business-led innovation is one of the many reasons why our region has a growing reputation for innovation and invention – buoyed by its significant concentration of these world-leading universities and the largest cluster of manufacturing jobs in the country.

Yet despite these huge opportunities, local companies aren’t taking advantage of innovation support and investment as much as they could. Leeds City Region currently attracts only 57% of the UK average investment per employee from Innovate UK. At the Bradford meeting I’ve already mentioned, some leading Yorkshire businesses referred to this as the “Yorkshire mentality” – that bullish pride and unwillingness to ask for help for which our region is renowned. I’m pleased to say that measures are in place to tackle this deficit through the national partnership. By putting in place truly business-focused measures, the LEP and Innovate UK are working together to boost business innovation across the region.

We need to continue to build on these success stories and remember that innovation cannot happen in isolation or be led by one particular sector or Government department. I ask all businesses in our region to take advantage of the support and funding available to grow your business through the LEP Growth Service and our partners.

We must ensure we seize the opportunities we have through the Government’s Industrial Strategy, its commitment to continued devolution and the Brexit negotiations so that our City Region can continue to play its part in driving national prosperity – becoming a place where dynamic and cutting edge businesses such as Burberry and Channel 4 can locate, flourish and create jobs.

Businesses can now benefit from two new major new programmes, launched this month to support businesses to innovate and grow. If you’re based in Leeds City Region and you want to find out more about this new support, please get in touch. Call the LEP Growth Service on 0113 348 1818 or email