The North East LEP: Thinking bigger and planning together for the future

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has a strong track record in evidence-based economic development strategy and delivery. Richard Baker, Director of Strategy, Policy and Analysis, explains why this is important and how the work we do continues to help the region embrace new opportunities, changes and challenges.

In her article about the outcomes of the LEP Review, our CEO Helen Golightly highlighted how government has recognised the importance of the LEP’s role in continuing to gather and use data, evidence and knowledge to inform and work with political and business leaders with strategic economic planning.

Since 2012, the North East LEP has led the development and oversight of the region’s Strategic Economic Plan. Its purpose has been to provide strategic direction, increase quality opportunities for people and businesses and to close key economic performance gaps with the rest of the country.

Robust economic evidence and policy analysis has always been used and continues to inform our planning and delivery. It is our core principle, not only be evidence led – but also to advocate and be recognised for it.

Ever since the first iteration of the Plan, which was built on the outcomes of the Northern Independent Economic Review led by Lord Andrew Adonis in 2012, we have kept our data and evidence fresh, forward facing and visible and we have translated it into economic strategy and delivery in the region and our work on policy issues. We have built strong and strategic collaboration with our partners, and capacity and capability into our analytical functions, intelligence gathering and strategy development processes.

Looking forward, our vision is to think bigger, to innovate and further develop our thinking to lead the way in in this space, both regionally and nationally.

Building on our annual ‘Our Economy’ report, we’ve recently launched the North East Evidence Hub – a website that brings together key regional data and research, in a simple and accessible way for our residents, businesses, education establishments and policy makers.

We have big plans for the site and want it to be the go-to place for the region, and where our partners look for and publish economic evidence. We’ve already seen the appetite and effectiveness of this vision through the publication of a strategic evidence base for our five lead authorities as they develop their plans for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

Our team is always horizon scanning for new and innovative data sources. We work with novel data sets like Google Mobility data and experimental data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Furthermore, we are building a relationship with ONS as it develops its sub-national evidence processes, ensuring we help them to shape the resource available to the region.

The evidence is a key building block for our work. We are equally passionate about working in collaboration with partners, bringing together these insights, and intelligence from across the region, to inform our strategic economic planning.

A good example is the Trade and Export strategy we published last year working with the Department for International Trade and the North East Chamber of Commerce to provide strategic direction in a new and challenging trading environment. It set out an agreed export proposition and a series of actions for the lead partners to take to enhance support for exporting.

This work was underpinned with a number of evidence tools; a significant evidence review produced by the University of Durham, a survey of exporting businesses in the region, and analysis of the operational data from the DIT and North East LEP.

Indeed, we work closely with our universities to ensure we are drawing together and building upon academic expertise and exploring opportunities for collaborative research and strategy projects. Moving forward, we want to build on activity to date and engage more deeply with the academic and research community.

We also bring together a number of strategic groups to test, inform and disseminate evidence. Our Economic Evidence Forum brings together people from across the region who commission and use evidence to work together on regional evidence priorities and peer review evidence projects that inform regional economic policy making. The Economic Prospects Group, convened jointly with the Bank of England, provides an opportunity to share real-time information and intelligence between different partners in our eco-system. We remain committed to ensure the work of these two groups informs our regional evidence activities, policy making and strategy development processes.

In addition to our regional work, there are opportunities for wider collaboration to inform and promote our region. Working with LEPs and Combined Authorities from across the North we have led development of the Northern Evidence Network (NEN), a new network to share and generate data and intelligence and help to shape strategy. A key priority for the NEN currently underway, is a refresh of the Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review working with Transport for the North, which will ensure that we have an up to date long term proposition about opportunities for future growth across the whole of the north of England and associated set of interventions on transport and the economy.

We are operating in an environment that is subject to significant change, both regionally and nationally – this undoubtedly creates a challenging time to be working in economic development. I believe that if we use the tools, people and infrastructure available to us to continue to build on the foundations we have created over the past decade, we will be able to navigate through these changes in an informed, strategic and collaborative way.

Credit: Bdaily 

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