As the end of the year draws to a close and we all look forward to a festive break and think ahead to 2024, we naturally begin to reflect on our personal and professional lives.
For me, this year has brought some changes. I took the reins as Chair of the Greater Lincolnshire LEP in March just as the Government signalled a policy shift in the funding and structure of LEPs. The Greater Lincolnshire LEP continues to serve us exceptionally well and we are proud of the role our partners have played in working together on skills and employment, sectors, innovation and many other areas.
Since then, the LEP has received the full support of our local authorities to continue operating in the medium term and our future integration will be aligned with last month’s announcement of a devolution deal for Greater Lincolnshire.
The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, which announced a mayoral devolution deal for Greater Lincolnshire, is very welcome and the board of the LEP fully supports this. The long-term deal will bring around £4bn of extra funding to Lincolnshire and importantly will give Greater Lincolnshire a stronger voice, and better control and access to the levers that drive our economy such as transport, jobs, housing and skills.
It is essential that the business community gets involved and has it say in the live consultation but also that we retain a strong Lincolnshire businesses voice at the heart of any future deals and arrangements.
One highlight for me this year has been the progress made by the UK Food Valley (UKFV), which was only launched last year. Lincolnshire is increasingly being recognised as the place to locate to if you are in the food, agritech and seafood sectors.
The UKFV is a genuine partnership, and I am particularly proud of the LEP’s leadership in landing one of the UK’s eight innovation launchpads which allow business to access up to £7.5m of innovation funding locally. My own organisation, the University of Lincoln, has also been awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for supporting the success and sustainability of the UK’s food and farming industries through innovations in research, education and technology, recognising the work of the Lincoln Institute for Agri-food Technology (LIAT).
Turning to the businesses in the defence and security sector, we launched a defence network this year. One of only three in the country, it is now formally recognised as a Regional Defence & Security Cluster, enabling Lincolnshire businesses to bid into the MOD and DASA (the Defence and Security Accelerator Network), bringing a wealth of opportunities for economic and reputational growth in this sector. We also attended the world's largest defence show, DSEI, representing Lincolnshire alongside partners and SMEs.
The Humber Freeport was formally approved by Government, with a drive to attract more investment in the renewable energy, clean growth and advanced manufacturing sectors. It will develop local supply chains and the LEP has been instrumental in driving forward a collaborative innovation ecosystem for the Humber.
We must not overlook the incredible progress made in other areas. In health and care the Lincoln Medical School is training medical doctors and health professionals at pace as a solution to fill the gap in recruitment locally and bring opportunities for research and innovation as never before.
The Manufacturing Board alongside the Business Lincolnshire Growth Hub secured a Made Smarter East Midlands programme which has already been extended to 2030. And two Lincolnshire tourism destinations won bronze awards at The Visit England Tourism Excellence Awards 2023: the International Bomber Command Centre took bronze in the Large Visitor Attraction of the Year category and Healing Manor Hotel won bronze in the Resilience and Innovation category.
We continue to deliver the Skills Bootcamps programme across Greater Lincolnshire, with over 450 people starting courses since we started, alongside the amazing work the team is doing on careers through our Careers Hub, including the new Teacher Encounters programme.
This year we also welcomed four new Directors to the Board representing health, energy and the SME community.
Our LEP Annual Conference last month on the Workforce of the Future attracted more delegates and participants than ever before, and our collaborative voices were heard loud and clear across borders and sectors, strengthening our position, and promoting the incredible assets and businesses we nurture.
As a board and a team, we are committed to working with all partners to develop next steps leading up to devolution, recognising the importance of a strong business voice and a successful economy for Greater Lincolnshire.
I’d like to wish all of our partners, stakeholders and supporters a very Merry Christmas and Happy and Healthy New Year.