Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership is kick-starting a Hertfordshire wide conversation to support the development of a Local Industrial Strategy.

Businesses, academia, not for profit and public sector organisations will be asked to contribute to discussions on emerging priorities to grow the economy, drive up productivity and embrace new technologies to support innovation.

The conversation will be kick-started at its sold out State of the Economy event on 30th November. The event at the Fielder Centre, Hatfield, has attracted considerable Government interest with places reserved for officials from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Cabinet Office.

Major local employers Tesco, Ocado and Affinity Water and key sector industries will be represented together with public sector leaders across education, local government and the social sector.

During the conference, delegates will hear how Hertfordshire can become a testbed for UK innovation. Guest speaker Paul Clarke, Chief Technology Officer, for Ocado, which has its HQ in Hatfield Business Park and is leading the technological revolution in retail, will outline how digital innovations will affect every aspect of how we live, work and play.

Professor Damian Ward, Dean of Hertfordshire Business School and Professor of Business Economics at the University of Hertfordshire, will then set out the major drivers in the global and UK economy that could affect Hertfordshire’s productivity. 

The second part of the conference will focus on the key opportunities that have been identified for Hertfordshire which are likely to become part of its Local Industrial Strategy.

Former LEP chair John Gourd heads up Hertfordshire’s Local Industrial Strategy Commission. He said: “At our Annual Conference in March, we set out the roadmap towards a Local Industrial Strategy. Since then the Government has altered the timescales with all Local Industrial Strategies set to be agreed by 2020. During the past six months, we have amassed the economic evidence base. Now the next stage will be to engage fully with businesses, public sector organisations and other key stakeholders to ensure that the priorities that we have identified are the right ones to take forward.”

In its recently published policy prospectus, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) set out its principles for a well designed Local Industrial Strategy which should help areas make the best use of their distinctive strengths, help to co-ordinate policy and must be led by those who best know the need of local economies.

As part of this widespread engagement process, Hertfordshire LEP and the University of Hertfordshire will be carrying out a comprehensive Hertfordshire Business Productivity Survey to understand what are the drivers behind high and low productivity businesses. Interim findings will be reported in March with the final report to be fed into the strategy development next summer. 

A series of business breakfasts and roundtable discussions will take place across ‘Hertfordshire from January to March 2019. These will be a ‘deep dive’ into some of the emerging opportunities that are expected to feature in the Local Industrial Strategy. Running alongside these will be a public facing campaign to raise awareness of Hertfordshire’s key strengths to ensure the county gets its fair share of Government funding post Brexit.

Hertfordshire LEP Chair Mark Bretton said: “This event marks the start of a conversation with everyone who has a stake in Hertfordshire’s future to understand how we can drive up productivity and prosperity for generations to come. This is a huge opportunity to influence the shape of the future local economy and we urge you to get involved in the process.”