Cambridgeshire: Business heads get together

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Some of the county’s most influential business leaders came together last week to highlight how working in partnership is key to improving business confidence and realising potential for economic growth in our region at a breakfast seminar organised by Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce.

Professor Alan Barrell, Entrepreneur in Residence at Cambridge University’s Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning, addressed delegates at the event.

Sharing his observations of international economic activity, he highlighted how a lack of collaboration within our own economic area was creating a barrier to growth. He said: “There is no better place to be than in this sub-region and nowhere with more potential for continuing economic and social development. I believe Britain is great and that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has the potential to be a marvellous and growing hub of increasing international importance. If Cambridge and Peterborough worked better together their combined strengths would be amazing.”

The event was officially opened by John Bridge OBE, Chief Executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, who also identified that working together and utilising resources more efficiently would have a positive impact on the economy.

Grahame Nix, just two months into his tenure as Chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership, built on this to communicate the role the partnership would take in making a contribution to the region’s innovation. He said: “Our LEP area is a leading centre for innovation. The role of the LEP is influential with local councils and government with four key areas, specifically the Enterprise Zone, the skills agenda, innovation and international markets.”

However he reassured businesses that the scope of the LEP is not restricted to these areas and it is also increasingly concerned with the improvements necessary to transport infrastructure, describing how the railways and A14 need to be built into a real programme going forward. Grahame also addressed the future of LEPs, drawing on references in the recent Heseltine Review that signal the partnerships are here to stay but warning that in order for the Government to continue to commit to LEPs, they each need to demonstrate the ability to perform.

The key positioning of the Local Enterprise Partnership was also highlighted by Mike Spicer, Senior Policy Advisor and Head of Research at the British Chambers of Commerce. His role oversees the national LEP network on behalf of the BCC, and he described how the results of their most recent Quarterly Economic Survey showed a positive trend in business confidence in our region. He also highlighted the need for partnership working and identified many key characteristics of Chambers that enables them to bring together local authorities, LEPs and other key partners to facilitate this. He said: “The Heseltine Review demonstrated what Chambers have the potential to do nationally and at a local level as a result of their international links but local focus, independence and resilience.”

The event also gave local businesses an opportunity to see Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce’s new branding which now puts them in line with their national accredited body, the British Chambers of Commerce. Unveiling the new brand John Bridge said: “We are one of 55 accredited Chambers in the UK. We are all separate legal entities determining our own agenda but we are all a part of one family, locally, nationally and internationally, and sharing the BCC’s brand only strengthens our unique network.”

As part of the rebranding the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, one of five local Chambers operated by the countywide organisation, has been renamed the Cambridge & South Cambs Chamber to more accurately depict the area it represents.