By Simon Bird, Director, ABP Humber and Humber LEP Board member:
The Humber Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has recently produced a Prospectus for an Industrial Strategy for the region which seeks to grow the economy of the area by playing to the strengths of the Humber Estuary. Focussing on energy, skills and the ports and logistics sector, the strategy is a masterclass in the co-creation of economic strategy between the public sector and the private businesses that drive growth and lead innovation.
The Humber LEP naturally works closely with major partners in the private sector to support its efforts in identifying areas for potential future growth and building the strategies that can help to unlock that potential. The result is not a shopping list of general growth initiatives as has been produced in some areas, but a targeted set of defined strategies in the sectors where the Humber is either already strong, or has natural advantages to become a leader in the years to come.
The two strands which are most relevant to ABP are energy and ports and logistics.
The Humber has had enormous success in recent years in defining itself as the UK’s energy estuary and so it was perhaps inevitable that energy would feature prominently in the strategy. The Humber has a concentration of high energy users such as manufactures and the oil refineries, which have clustered in the Humber because of the easy access to materials that the ports provide. The region also boasts an impressive range of energy producers. The LEP’s proposed Industrial Strategy sets out a map to accelerating growth in energy production and specifically targeting the growing cluster of skills concentrated in the Humber in clean energy. There is growing consumer and policy demand for clean energy and so the renewable sector is booming in the Humber with the Port of Grimsby already established as the biggest centre for the operations and maintenance of offshore wind in the World.
The Industrial Strategy naturally sets out how this can be grown further. It also specifically promotes an ambition to decarbonise the Humber. With such a large concentration of high energy using industries in the area, it is not surprising that the Humber Region is the highest carbon producing part of the UK. The proposed Humber Industrial Strategy contains an ambition to be a net-zero carbon economy by 2040. If achieved, it would be one of the most dramatic transformations in industrial history and would firmly place the Humber on the World map as a pioneer in energy terms.
It is also particularly pleasing that an entire strand of the strategy focusses on the ports and logistics sector. The four ports on the Humber combined make up the biggest port complex in the UK, handling 17% of the nation’s trade and serving as a gateway for trade with Europe and the rest of the World for the North of England, the Midlands and beyond. The Humber Ports support around 32,000 jobs in the region when supply chains are taken into account and contribute around £2.3 billion to the economy each year in GDP. It is therefore unsurprising that the ports would feature so prominently in the Industrial Strategy for the area.
The ambition the Humber sets out to achieve is to create a globally renowned hub for sustainable shipping, investing in the Humber Ports to strengthen and diversify their role. It sets out that this will be achieved by investing in technology to promote innovation, enhancing the skills of the workforce in the area to take advantage of the opportunities the sector can offer, and by overcoming the transport connectivity challenges which can inhibit growth.
This last proposal is hugely significant for the Humber Ports. By allowing us to move more trade on rail, as well as free up the flow of traffic on roads connecting the Humber to Leeds, Manchester and the M1 / M18 corridor, we will not only give our ports and logistic sector a competitive edge, but also give that same advantage to businesses across the North by giving them faster access to goods and external markets.