Our bright, blue and green future

5 our bright, blue and green future

Written by Karl Tucker, Chair of the Great South West

This is an exciting time for our region. Having recently been appointed as the permanent Chair of the Great South West, we need to move fast to collectively grasp this opportunity for our region to put forward a united voice to Government. Now is the time to promote the opportunities we have to investors across the country and beyond.

For many years the Great South West region, which covers Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset and Somerset, has been viewed by some only for its beautiful rolling countryside and amazing beaches. A place to visit, unwind and slow down for a while.

It’s wonderful that so many people want to come here and experience our home with its fantastic tourism industry, thriving cities and unparalleled natural beauty.

But we are so much more than that. We have a population the size of Wales, an economy the size of Greater Manchester. We have 128,000 businesses, many of them small and micro. We have some of the nation’s best-known brands. We have long-established bedrock economic sectors such as tourism, defence, quarrying and minerals, food and drink, agriculture and fishing. We have a flourishing creative arts and cultural economy, and strengths in data, climate science and digital innovation.

And when combined with our natural assets, our world-leading green and blue economies present the perfect opportunity to lead the country in our biggest challenge yet.

Our natural capital provides huge investable opportunities to help decarbonise our economy. The Great South West can lead the way in the  country’s fight against climate change, as the UK’s Natural Powerhouse.

We are perfectly placed to support the UK’s net zero targets through:

  • Increased clean energy generation from Floating Offshore Wind, nuclear and solar generation
  • Providing storage solutions to balance out the inherent difference in renewable energy generation and energy consumption demand
  • Providing carbon sequestration through our agriculture and emerging aquaculture opportunities, whilst also supporting our wildlife and biodiversity, and helping to ensure food security 
  • Providing the high-tech minerals required to produce the batteries and other equipment needed in the electrification and decarbonisation of our economy, homes and transport systems

These, and other opportunities including autonomous marine vehicles, smart aviation, photonics and digital all have the potential to make the Great South West a thriving economic region – as well as a fantastic holiday destination.

We need help to be able to capitalise on all of these opportunities, and ensure that the people living here benefit from the economic growth and prosperity they will bring.

We have challenges with housing availability, particularly affordable housing. We have challenges with our connectivity, be that physically with our roads, rail and public transport, or digitally, with too many homes and businesses not having access to modern internet connectivity.

We also have challenges with social mobility. Too many young people are unable to see or believe in the opportunities that exist for them now, and that will exist for them in the future, leading to low aspiration and low educational attainment. I want to ensure that we use the current and future opportunities we have for added value and high skilled jobs, to inspire and motivate our young people to believe in their futures, and to allow them to fully participate in our exciting future economy.

To do this we need to apply whole systems thinking. As these future job opportunities open up we need to have the right housing in the right places, in the right quantities and at the right price. We must have the transport and road networks to facilitate the movement of people around the region in the most efficient and environmentally friendly way possible. We must have the digital infrastructure to support and facilitate business growth and modern, digital ways of working. Ultimately, I want to see the Great South West move from the bottom of the Social Mobility Index, to the top.

Many of our opportunities are linked to energy, either from a generation perspective, a storage perspective, or from an enabling perspective. The one thing that ties all of these together is a desperate need for a fundamental upgrade of the power grid in the region.

We urgently need to see the plan for the funding and the physical upgrade of this grid, without which many of these opportunities will be at best significantly delayed, and at worst lost altogether.

It’s clear we have amazing opportunities here in the Great South West to build upon our already significant economy. We have the opportunity to play a major role in the country’s energy transformation and journey to net zero. We can also play a significant role in ensuring food and energy security for the country, increasing biodiversity, improving social mobility and delivering economic prosperity across the whole region.

My role, and that of all of the Great South West Partners, is to get this message loud and clear to Government, and to the other investors who will allow all of this to come to fruition.

The future is bright. The future is blue and green.