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Connectivity key to improving growth and productivity

01 December 2017

Business and regional bodies say improved connectivity can drive productivity growth in the advanced manufacturing sector across much of the UK.

This can contribute to closing the gap between the best and worst performing areas, according to a new study published by HS2 Ltd.

Drawing on evidence from over 100 employers, local authorities and universities, HS2: Getting the best out of Britain, highlights the regional strengths of highly skilled manufacturing clusters, universities and research centres, and cutting edge technology entrepreneurs, but warns that more needs to be done to draw them together and realise their full potential in the modern economy.

Comparing London’s highly-efficient transport network with the connectivity that exists within and between city regions in the Midlands and the North, the study argues that there is a direct link between productivity and connectivity.

David Higgins, Chairman of HS2 Ltd said: “This report is the evidence that HS2 will boost productivity in the north and midlands. This is a once in a generation opportunity to join up and amplify the many centres of excellence around the country, as we prepare to exit the European Union.

“By improving the connectivity between our major population centres HS2 will give business access to the skills, labour and services they need to change the economic geography of the country.”

The report, to be launched at an event in Nottingham, demonstrates that HS2 will raise productivity in the advanced manufacturing sector by transforming the ability of our leading research and development centres and universities to connect to cutting-edge manufacturers in high-tech engineering; By joining up the major conurbations around the country, HS2 will enable a greater pooling of people and capital around the regions of the UK. This connectivity will enable businesses in the North and the Midlands to gain better access to new markets, investments, and become more globally attractive. 

Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport said: “This study clearly shows transport investment is crucial to a strong and resilient economy. That's why we are investing in all forms of transport including the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century to improve services for passengers – providing faster and better trains with more seats.

“As Britain's new railway, HS2 will deliver vital links between some of our country’s biggest cities, driving economic growth and productivity and helping to deliver the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

"By bringing our major cities, regions and communities closer together we are encouraging business and innovation and building a Britain that is fit for the future with a stronger economy and fairer society."

HS2 will enable engineers, researchers, scientists and suppliers to engage in the face-to-face collaboration and sharing of knowledge and ideas that underpins innovation and competitiveness in our advanced manufacturing industries.

One example in Britain’s booming automotive sector is The Digital Engineering and Test Centre, a centre of excellence within the Loughborough University London campus at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. The Centre is a spoke of the Advanced Propulsion Centre and brings together industry and academia from the automotive and digital communities to work collaboratively to develop next-generation propulsion systems. Automotive manufacturers, including Ford, McLaren, Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan, are affiliated and actively engage with the Centre. These collaborations place a premium on fast, frequent and reliable transport connections between regions of the UK and HS2 will bring such research centres closer to automotive manufacturing clusters in the Midlands, North West and North East of England.   

Marlies Rogait, Member of the Board for Human Resources for Bentley Motors Ltd. said: "Bentley's headquarters in Crewe is home to the design, R&D, engineering and production of the company's four model lines which are exported to 60 markets around the world. Infrastructure investments such as HS2 will bring improved connectivity to the region, with the rest of UK and worldwide, which we hope will attract suppliers and the best talent to support our business in the future."

The UK aerospace sector is another example, with over 250,000 jobs across the Midlands, Lancashire, Cheshire and Edinburgh, and over 3,000 businesses in its UK supply chain. In the Midlands, HS2 will cut journey times between the East Midlands and Birmingham to just 20 minutes, and Birmingham Interchange in Solihull to 17 minutes, bypassing congested roads and slow existing rail links. This will benefit Midlands-based Rolls Royce, one of the world's leading manufacturers of aircraft engines and suppliers of aircraft control systems in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry. In the North West, HS2 will almost halve the rail journey time between Preston, which sits within the Lancashire aerospace cluster, and the West Midlands aerospace cluster – bringing benefits to over 200 aerospace companies with a combined turnover in excess of £7 billion. 

Sir John Peace, Chair of Midlands Engine said: “The Midlands economy is built on a strong advanced manufacturing base and is enhanced by a wide range of sectoral strengths, universities and research centres. Midlands Connect and Midlands Engine are seizing on the once in a generation opportunity HS2 brings to drive growth for the region, through improved connectivity within the region as well as beyond. We will create a thriving environment for businesses to flourish and HS2 is critical for us to do that.”

HS2 will serve around 30m people and directly serve more than 25 stations, joining up the dots between where we are now, and where we could get to as a country - a combination of more capacity and better connectivity will improve accessibility, and, therefore, productivity in the Midlands and the North – at the same time as easing the pressure on London. 

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