South West strengths showcased during CBI chief’s regional visit

CBI Director-General Tony Danker leads discussions with South West business leaders at the University of Bristol’s enterprise hub Engine Shed. Credit: Jon Rowley
CBI meeting at the Engine Shed Bristol. 14 Jan 2022Pic Jon Rowley

The South West’s excellence in industries as varied as maritime, aerospace and crea-tech has been showcased to the CBI’s Director-General during a two-day visit.

Tony Danker visited Plymouth and Bristol to meet a number of key South West business leaders to discuss their ambitions within the CBI’s Seize The Moment economic strategy – which includes stimulating regional growth by building upon successful economic clusters around the country.

The visit – which included two business roundtables organised in partnership with Womble Bond Dickinson – saw Tony spend two days getting a close-up look at how the South West has already enjoyed success with this approach.

In Bristol, Tony visited Airbus and Renishaw, key players in a regional aerospace and advanced manufacturing cluster which is leading on pioneering decarbonisation advances while contributing £7billion a year to the regional purse.

He also led a roundtable discussion at the University of Bristol’s enterprise hub, Engine Shed, for key figures in the Bristol and Bath creative and tech cluster, already established as the UK’s most successful tech cluster and contributing £1.7billion to the local economy.

At each stage, Tony outlined the CBI’s vision for growing regional prosperity, while also hearing from local business leaders about the key challenges they face.

“Building world class clusters is the key to establishing the international competitiveness of our regions, which is vital if we are to build a high wage, high skill, high investment and high productivity UK,” he said.

“I have seen first-hand the South West’s excellence in aerospace, crea-tech and maritime industries, and growing clusters like these can ignite levelling-up ambitions and deliver growth and opportunity to all parts of the country.”

Ben Rhodes, CBI South West Regional Director, said: “It was a pleasure to welcome Tony to the South West, and I’m grateful to all of our partners who hosted sessions during his visit and helped us showcase some of the region’s many success stories.

“The South West is home to some genuinely world-leading clusters that, with some additional support from Government through its levelling-up agenda, have the potential to drive greater regional prosperity.”

Marty Reid, Director of Engine Shed, Bristol, said: “While there has been remarkable growth in the South West across the digital and tech sectors, clusters of capability in areas like crea-tech, quantum and deep tech are only starting to scratch the surface of the huge potential for impact on business and society.

“Proactive engagement between business networks in the regional cluster and national organisations like the CBI will be crucial for continuing this success. We need a shared and open approach to ensure the growth driven by these clusters is environmentally sustainable and that the benefits and opportunities are accessible by anyone in society.”