Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and the UK Government are working together to develop one of the country’s first modern local industrial strategies, as one of three ‘trailblazer’ areas in the UK. Due to be agreed in March 2019, it will be our joint plan for creating exciting, well-paid jobs in new industries, and upskilling and increasing competitiveness in our high employment sectors. It will set out how we will build on our unique strengths and opportunities, and capitalise on the creativity of our people, to create a digitally-enabled, green city-region.
GMCA has been working closely with the What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth on the development of its Local Industrial Strategy (LIS) and underpinning evidence base, the Greater Manchester Independent Prosperity Review (the Prosperity Review). We have been sharing the lessons we have learnt from the LIS development process so far with LEPs and other representative organisation across the country at a series of WWC run events across the country.
Here are the three reflections that I shared with LEPs:
Importance of evidence base:
GM has long been a promoter of evidence-based policymaking and this is critical for the development of a distinctive and robust LIS. We have focussed on granular and novel evidence and identifying the right benchmarks and comparator areas, for example partnering with Office of National Statistics (ONS) to access more detailed datasets which provide a fresh take on productivity and we would welcome more of this. New data science techniques have also been critical, such as web scraping, through the work that we are undertaking with the Data City to deepen our understanding of our global competitive strengths and the innovation ecosystem.
I would, however, caution LEP areas against investing too much time in thorny issues for which there may be limited data or existing challenges in obtaining new insight. Supply chains are a good example of this. We have had the capacity to look into this issue and would be happy to share our findings, but having explored a range of options jointly with West Midlands, another trailblazer area, including survey fieldwork and substantial depth interviews, we opted for a largely desk-based and academic approach to this topic.
There is evidently much to learn from each other in the development of LIS and hence the value of events like these. Whilst there is certainly distinctiveness in GM, there are also many commonalities with other areas, for example on the issue of low pay and low productivity and therefore common datasets and knowledge to share.
Independent challenge opportunities:
GM has benefitted previously through the Manchester Independent Economic Review (MIER) – GM’s groundbreaking evidence review undertaken in 2009 – from having independent challenge and input. This provides credibility with government and ensures that we are bold and fresh in our thinking. The Prosperity Review Panel which is directing the evidence review includes a number of the MIER Panel Members, Prof. Diane Coyle (University of Cambridge) (chair), Prof Ed Glaeser (Harvard University) and Prof Henry Overman (London School of Economics). It also includes new panel members Prof Mariana Mazzucato (University College London), Stephanie Flanders (Bloomberg) and Darra Singh (EY).
Value of collaboration to widen understanding of the issues:
We fully recognise the value of engaging with the wider business community and civic organisations; the public consultation on the development of the LIS has just closed. Any collaboration or engagement activity to support the development of the LIS, however, needs to be designed carefully. There is evidently a trade-off between consulting as widely as possible and potential collaboration paralysis. We have used the consultation survey, research-based ‘Call for Evidence’ and face to face engagement with a range of groups and organisations spanning the civic and business community.
There has also been great benefit from collaborative working with the Government to jointly develop the local industrial strategy. The Government, so far, has deliberately not been prescriptive in its guidance on LIS development, as it was for example within the Science and Innovation Audit process, and we welcome this move. It is providing an opportunity to design and develop our LIS in a way that ensures that it is “of GM” and “owned” by GM, albeit that it has been jointly agreed with Government.