RSC, Stratford upon Avon
David Ayton-Hill, economy and skills group manager at Warwickshire County Council, looks at how the county's economy has grown over the last few years and why more businesses than ever before are looking to invest in the area...
Warwickshire has been identified as one of the most enterprising places in the country in the recent Enterprising Britain 2016 awards, and no wonder when you look what has been happening in recently in the county.
Warwickshire has been prospering over the past few years – no doubt aided and abetted by the strong growth in Jaguar Land Rover which is based in the area, but a wider and deeper growth in the economy is clearly apparent. The county has seen a strong growth in new business start-up rates over the past couple of years – with growth of 15.5% in new business formations over the period 2013-2015, faster than both the regional and national average. At 68.8 new business starts per 10,000 population, the county has an enterprise rate far above the West Midlands (45.1) and UK (58.8) levels. Furthermore, business failure rates have also reduced significantly, and again at a faster rate than average.
This entrepreneurial drive in the economy has undoubtedly played a key role in Warwickshire’s rapidly growing levels of productivity. The county has had one of the fastest growing economies in the country, and fastest growing of all local authorities of comparable size since the recession. The county’s productivity in terms of output per worker has risen by 19.6% since 2009, outperforming national and regional averages. Over the past four years, Warwickshire’s growth in productivity capacity (measured by productivity hours worked) is exceeded by only three other local authorities in the UK, all much smaller economic areas.
Warwickshire thrives in business creativity and innovation thanks to our activity within key business sectors such as Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering, Automotive, Aerospace and Rail; Business, Professional & Financial Services; and Creative Industries & Gaming.
The core of our economic strength lies within our supply chain network in design, advanced engineering, manufacturing and service sector. A recent economic survey carried out by C&W Chamber of Commerce, for Quarter 1 2017 the outlook was positive and showed a greater strengthening in the manufacturing and services (Quarterly economic survey Q1 2017).
In recent years our excellence in these sectors have been attracting a strong flow of FDI to harness skills and expertise of the region, including EDAG Engineering a German owned company working with premium OEMs, Baro Vehicles a Argentina company set-up in the UK to produce semi-autonomous golf buggies with plans for fully autonomy by 2020, and Lightning Hybrids a US owned company who produce hydraulic systems to recover energy from fleet vehicles. Not to mention many FDI expansion projects such as French owned gaming company Ubisoft joined Leamington Spa’s gaming cluster at ‘Silicon Spa’
Exciting growth plans have been revealed within the local automotive sector, including, Geely London Taxi Company opening their first electric vehicle production facility at Antsy, JLR’s investment in R&D facilities at Gaydon and Whitley along with their announcement of developing the electric iPace. Liberty Vehicles wowed us with their plans to invest £10m to expand its manufacturing capability with a new facility in Leamington Spa, and their next supercar model (T1 Evo) will make a debut, not to mention Liberty’s Trillion Cycles range will be launching a new premium product, and it doesn’t stop there; Detroit Electric secured Chinese investment to develop a high end electric car. While Brexit brings uncertainly over future EU trading relationships there is clear evidence that some industries are embracing investment decisions.
Warwickshire’s tourism industry is renowned for its rich assets including Warwick Castle, the Royal Shakespeare Company and The Rugby World Hall of Fame. In 2015 overseas visitors alone spent more than £100m in Warwickshire. Warwickshire County Council continues to deliver a programme to town centres to further improve economic growth.
In June we welcome the Aviva Women’s Cycle tour which will bring the world’s top female cyclists racing through Warwickshire at Stage 3 of the race. The 2016 Women's Cycling Tour saw around 75,000 people line roads the length of the county when it passed through Warwickshire for the first time.
Ideas and Innovation
Warwickshire and its neighbouring city Coventry are fortunate to have a unique R&D eco-system accessible to businesses allowing collaborative creation between academic and industry. The region has a history of innovation and R&D activity, from the development of the modern bicycle (the Starley ‘Rover’ Safety Cycle), the engineering genius of the jet engine to the iconic cars of Jaguar, and more recently the explosive growth of the gaming industry in Leamington Spa.
We recognise that entrepreneurial flair in SME’s creates new economic opportunities; this is why R&D investment from local and UK Government has been made and will continue. This is supported by our dedicated SME support programmes from WMG, a department of University of Warwick and Coventry University encouraging product development and testing and the Proving Factory, helping businesses scale-up production processes and commercialise new technology.
Our R&D eco-system includes two world-class Universities (Warwick University and Coventry University), two High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centres, WMG at Warwick University and the Manufacturing Technology Centre based in Ansty. MIRA Technology Park just outside of Nuneaton is Europe’s most exciting Automotive R&D campus with a growing list of global brands firms locating onsite.
This region is undoubtedly a network of creativity and innovation with an exceptional reputation for attracting many of the world’s most successful businesses.
Business support on offer
Businesses in Warwickshire can also benefit from a comprehensive range of business support services. The Coventry & Warwickshire Growth Hub acts as a first point of contact for businesses, and can signpost to a range of support provided by specialist delivery partners.
The service is available to businesses with up to 250 employees and includes:
• Support to people looking to start a business.
• Support to help established businesses address barriers to growth.
• Help with commercial property search
• Specialist sector and innovation support
• Workshops, events and seminars to provide networking and supply chain opportunities.
• Referrals to other specialist business support programmes.
• Recruitment service designed to meet the needs of employees.
• Support on improving health and wellbeing in the workplace.
The Warwickshire area also benefits from a wide package of financial support available to support businesses across the sub-region including European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) investment grants, ERDF innovation grants, ERDF low carbon grants, LEADER grants in North Warwickshire, RDPE Growth Grants and Warwickshire County Council’s Capital Growth Fund – Small Capital Grants. We also provide pro-active support to help businesses access finance, and identify the most suitable forms of support available to them.
The Coventry and Warwickshire Business Support Programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund Warwickshire County Council and Coventry City Council.
For information about the range of support available to grow your business, including support with applying for any of the grants above please contact the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP Growth Hub on 0300 060 3747 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.