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  • Lawrence Bailey

Connecting City Deal to the Knowledge Economy

There’s been much media prominence about the Swansea Bay City Deal and how it will be delivered. Getting a £1.3 billion joint initiative off the ground takes a fair bit of effort and its good to see that progress is being made.

It’s easy though to get caught up in the appeal of big shiny projects and forget that the overall focus is about people.

The grim backdrop to securing this funding package is that despite its many advantages, the Swansea Bay region suffers from income and job expectation levels that are well below the UK average.

I hate to bring this up too; but nothing in any post-Brexit projections suggests that this is likely to change.

We’re going to be on our own in more ways than one. All the more reason then to boost City Deal by firing up the big engines, otherwise known as the higher and further education sectors.

In this instance it’s also an opportunity to answer the questions of how you match graduate skills to the needs of commerce and industry – and how you retain those skills within the region.

A recent presentation by the Academy of Professional Development at Swansea University, introduced by Prof Hilary Lappin-Scott, highlighted how local and national firms harness so-called Big Data by surprising means.

Just as novel is the way that the Academy provides valuable real-time assistance for business-related projects.

I guess one of the best examples of translating ideas into a commercial venture is the Institute for Life Sciences (ILS) at Singleton where home-grown outfits benefit from linking with each other and big names like IBM, Siemens and MIT

It’s not just a matter of generating ideas through R&D but getting the right capability in place in terms of talent and technical support. That’s the view of Prof Medwin Hughes, vice-chancellor of UWTSD and the investment in their new SA1 campus shows the level of commitment towards that aim.

Yet it’s also important to remember the groundwork achieved in our tertiary colleges. Anyone who has attended a Young Business Dragons event will see how youngsters quickly learn how to get to grips with the basics of marketing plans and return on investment.

They also represent the new face of trading where innovation and intuitive working methods transform traditional inter-business relationships.

You can literally see this phenomenon evolving in Swansea’s TechHub which is part of a wider global enterprise tasked with tapping into the benefits of collaborative working.

I’ve also been watching the quiet but steady growth of a tech cluster in Bay Studios Business Park. Several firms have expanded operations and some new specialist arrivals have sparked a creative buzz about the place.

We’ve spoken for some time about establishing ourselves in the knowledge economy. I’d say it’s never been more important to make the right connections and work towards sustainable employment.

Later this year, SA1 Waterfront Business Club will be getting an update briefing from newly appointed City Deal economic strategy boss Ed Tomp. He will be joined by Swansea council leader Rob Stewart and others.

I expect to hear how business will be playing a key part.

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