Our first face to face Initiative meeting for more than 18 months was a great success, though it felt slightly strange seeing members in the flesh again after so long. It was a bit like the first day of school after an exceptionally long summer holiday.
The gathering took place at the University of Bath and we heard from the Vice Chancellor and his colleagues about its world class performance in a range of areas. Ground breaking work in science and technology is not only producing leading academic research but it is crucially also being turned into real life businesses thanks to a lively entrepreneurial spirit. It’s a similar story at Bath Spa University and thanks to the fact our two institutions focus on different subject areas, together they produce graduates who can operate in a wide range of sectors.
Start up and developing companies have the potential to make a significant contribution to the local economy so it’s vital that we do all we can to nurture them and find the necessary space for them to develop. It’s no exaggeration to say that if they can’t be accommodated here, they will look elsewhere, taking their brain power with them, and that would be extremely bad news.
Of course, that brings us back to the regular topic of the need for good employment space which will continue despite the probable continuation of some level of home working. The challenge for our political leaders is to solve the conundrum of how to fit everything in. It was good to see in the partial refresh of the local plan a proposal for additional brownfield sites being allocated for house building, but we mustn’t forget about employment space, especially that which is suited to the demands of modern, high-tech businesses.
Other places, such as Cambridge, Oxford and Manchester have embraced their universities and worked with them to create suitable spaces, which has paid dividends in the shape of an ever-growing local economy. We certainly have the intellectual abilities – we just need to do all we can to help it to develop. That’s not to say we turn our back on our traditional strengths of tourism and retail but we must prepare now for a sustainable future and we don’t want to see our brightest and best going off down the road.