Seasons Greetings from the Tech Corridor Team
As we are approaching the end of 2020, it’s a good time to look back and take a few minutes to reflect on the most extraordinary year, and I wanted to share a short round-up of my thoughts as we look ahead to 2021.
The Tech Corridor team and I came into 2020 with lots of enthusiasm and grand plans (as always) for the year ahead and a feeling that this year would be an opportunity to really accelerate the work of the Tech Corridor. We had a calendar packed full of ambassador events and big plans for a tech showcase in the summer. However, just as for everyone else, our plans changed as the Covid-19 pandemic struck. We were quickly reallocated to support the Covid-19 response efforts, sourcing PPE for care homes throughout Norfolk and Suffolk, helping businesses to scale up their production of PPE and writing and sharing daily ‘business scripts’ with the latest information to businesses from Government. Most of our own projects and programmes were put on hold as we came together to support the Covid-19 response efforts. It is fair to say that spring and early summer was incredibly hectic, both for the Tech Corridor team, but also for all our partners.
However, one of the things I will try to embrace as a positive from those first few manic months of the pandemic is the relationships that I built both with people I had never met before and with my closest colleagues. By working from home, we got a chance to get to know each other’s pets and children who would happily join Teams calls and to get an insight into our colleagues’ everyday lives. I believe that this new sense of openness meant that it also felt ok to be more ‘human’ at work and it felt more natural to admit to your colleagues that you were finding it tough to manage a good work-life balance, because we were, and still are, truly in it together.
As we adapted to the ‘new normal’ in early summer, the Tech Corridor team was able to refocus more of our efforts back onto our core mission; to support businesses and communities to grow and thrive. We set up a new programme called Funding Fit to support businesses in building consortiums & partnerships to better enable them to apply to access grant funding. We utilised our existing Ambassador network to help businesses connect with each other and find new customers, supply chain and collaboration partners when networking events were cancelled. We worked with several businesses and individuals who were keen to pivot to capitalise on emerging opportunities by connecting them with the required funding and support. Throughout, I was amazed by the resilience and drive within our business community!
Early in the autumn, we recruited James Williamson to the team to lead the Engineering Success project in collaboration with the New Anglia Advanced Engineering and Manufacturing group (NAAME), to support the engineering and manufacturing cluster across the region. Alongside the Engineering Success project, we started the development of a novel talent sharing platform to enable businesses to share staff workforce during quiet periods to avoid having to make redundancies.
In summer, work resumed developing our spatial growth vision for how the Tech Corridor can evolve as a ‘technology ecosystem’ over the coming years and how we can utilise and enhance the technology strengths in different locations to create a diverse and connected Corridor. This work helped support a number of inward investment enquiries in the late summer and has formed a key part in informing public and private sector investment across the Tech Corridor.
Despite the challenges of 2020, we have seen some really exciting new capital projects come online in the Tech Corridor region, including the Epicentre at Haverhill, Productivity East at the University of East Anglia, the Food Enterprise Park in Norwich, the expansion of Lotus at Hethel and the plans for a new Energy Innovation Park, to name a few. We were particularly delighted to be on the board for the Norwich Town Fund bid which secured £25m of government funding for 8 projects in the city.
Throughout the year we have been sharing news and stories from the Tech Corridor through our weekly newsletters and social media platforms and I believe that in challenging times it is more important than ever to also see the positive things that are going on across the region. Our weekly jobs page with tech jobs from across the three counties has been particularly popular. We also launched our first-ever Tech Corridor Christmas Gift Guide to showcasesome of the most innovative businesses across the region – and when you are reading this it might not be too late to go out and support our local businesses this Christmas!
Looking forward to 2021 is not easy as there is still a lot of uncertainly about what the year ahead will be like, but for the Tech Corridor our priorities are focused around supporting regional businesses whilst also attracting more investment into the region. Key programmes and projects we are looking forward to in 2021 include the launch of the talent sharing platform early in the year, a new Investment Catalyst Platform that will help businesses showcase to investors. We will accelerate work with our Ambassador network, to use our spatial growth vision to attract investment and businesses to the region and to get the Tech Corridor on the government’s agenda. We will continue to work with businesses through our Funding Fit programme, to support businesses to access the right type of support at the right time and to support partners and stakeholders to drive projects and align their plans with our vision for an inclusive and connected Corridor.
With our strengths in life science, renewable energy, digital technologies, food and agriculture and engineering and manufacturing, I truly believe that the Tech Corridor represents one of the most exciting and important growth opportunities in the UK today. We have shown incredible resilience over the past year and I am excited to have the opportunity to support the region to grow.
However, as this year has shown, achieving great things require a team effort and I look forward to working with the rest of the Tech Corridor team, our public sector partnership, our private sector partners and all the incredible individuals that I meet (albeit virtually) on a daily basis.
As I write this, I’m sat in my parents’ house in Sweden where I grew up and I can’t help to think that as challenging as 2020 has been, I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work in this way during a ‘normal’ year – and for that I’m grateful.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and look forward to seeing you all in 2021!