Leading figures from the world of business have set out the blueprint for a National Prosperity Plan to help create globally competitive industries in every part of the UK, deliver on the government’s net zero commitments and reduce the economic and social inequalities that have been widened as a result of the pandemic.
The Covid Recovery Commission of 10 business leaders, including Chairs and Chief Executives representing AstraZeneca, Heathrow, Vodafone, Shell and Tesco, has published a major report – ‘Ambition 2030’: A Partnership for Growth’ – that argues: “the pandemic has had a bigger impact on our economy than any event in the last 300 years.”
In the below blog, Dr Annette Bramley, director of the N8 Research Partnership, reflects on the report’s findings.
As we start to feel the benefits of the phenomenal vaccine roll out and life begins a slow return to normality, it’s imperative that we don’t take our focus off the social, economic and environmental inequalities that the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare. The impact of the past year will be felt for a long time to come, yet from this instability and upheaval we can commit to working together to shape a better, prosperous and greener society that benefits us all.
I congratulate the Covid Recovery Commission on this timely and vital report. It rightly highlights the importance of integrating the many different bodies and organisations that make our country great – from our dynamic higher education sector that supports world-class innovation and R&D to the corporations that manufacture the products that improve life for millions around the world.
As the report says, the benefits of such an approach is exemplified by the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Just as the success of that product was built on expertise developed and nourished years before the pandemic hit, I’m confident that the knowledge base already exists within the UK to lead us to a brighter future and tackle other challenges like climate change and biodiversity loss.
The N8 Research Partnership and our partners have developed Net Zero North, to connect the Northern Powerhouse’s science and research capabilities, skills providers and businesses and drive the green recovery from COVID-19. At the same time, Net Zero North will also put the UK at the forefront at the global drive for net zero carbon and attract inward investment to the region.
One of the three key components of Net Zero North is the NzN Skills Alliance, which will see our eight universities work with Further Education college networks and other stakeholders to create skills hubs for Hydrogen in Teesside and for Climate Change adaptation and resilience in Morecambe. In tandem with the Commission’s proposed ‘Help to Train’ scheme – which would allow people from the age of 25 to access a £10,000 grant for retraining and upskilling – Net Zero North would have a monumental impact on enabling a huge number of people to develop secure, well paid jobs in growing sectors that will flourish in the journey to net zero.
The Commission’s call for a Green Homes Bond that would provide upfront funding of the retrofit process in return for a share in savings through cheaper energy bills would provide the stimulus to give this skills revolution real momentum. Beginning the retrofit process in the social housing sector would allow us to inject certainty into the supply chain – resulting in further knock on effects for the economy – while simultaneously bringing valuable employment opportunities to parts of the UK that have been hardest hit by the pandemic.
As the N8 recently explored on our Transforming Built Infrastructure webinar, there is a brilliant chance to train and retrain people at all skill levels in the region for professions that will be crucial to the mass retrofitting of homes, from heat pump engineers and plasterers to architects and urban planners. This is a real message of hope for people that have lost careers and jobs to Covid – there is demand for skilled people out there if you can equip yourself with the skills that will be needed in the low Carbon economy.
With just six months to go until COP26, the Covid Recovery Commission has put forward an invigorating portrayal of how as a country we can work together to revitalise national and local economies while helping preserve the planet for future generations. It is now incumbent on the key players the National Prosperity Plan outlines – from universities to the private sector and Government departments – to make that vision a reality.