The Oxford to Cambridge Arc, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer described as a “key economic priority” for the country, has unveiled its bold vision in a prospectus that has been submitted to Government. The Arc’s ambition is to unlock the potential of its assets to create a world-leading innovation economy.
Oxford to Cambridge Arc: a global asset and national investment priority
The Arc is already home to nearly four million people and two million jobs which together generate over £111bn of economic output each year. Based upon determined leadership and new financial backing, forecasts show that increased productivity resulting from intensifying the Arc’s global strengths in science, technology and high value manufacturing, could double the area’s economic output to over £200bn by 2050.
Councillor Barry Wood, Chair of the Arc Leaders Group and Leader of Cherwell District Council, said: “The Arc region has a critical mass of research, high-technology expertise and innovation assets found nowhere else in the UK. Yet we are at a pivotal time, during which our nation’s economic resilience is being tested far beyond anything we’ve seen before. Working with Government we can release the potential of the Arc’s key sectors, scientific community and entrepreneurial spirit to propel our country’s response to the major national and global challenges we face.”
The prospectus asks for commitment from Government to long term investment in the area, enabling the Arc to fulfil its true potential to deliver transformational economic growth that will benefit the whole of the UK. That investment will be crucial to tackle connectivity and congestion constraints and to provide the skills that industry requires to enable the Arc to pursue its role as a leading global innovation region.
Jeremy Long, Chair of the Arc Local Enterprise Partnerships Group, said: “Our vision is for the Arc to be a global hub for innovation, and home to exemplary models of green development that will inspire communities around the world. The Arc’s place is at the forefront of the UK’s green recovery and this will be made possible through bold leadership that focuses on the big opportunities. The Arc’s world-leading innovation across multiple sectors can deliver prosperity for the UK. We now need the commitment from Government and international investors to make the ambition a reality.”
The Arc will pursue innovation-led growth to help solve major, urgent environmental, health and social challenges, and at the same time, drive UK competitiveness and local prosperity. The Arc’s vision specifically sets out a plan to make the UK a world-leader in new technology and industries in zero-carbon aviation, space, life sciences, future mobility and energy.
Cllr Bridget Smith, Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council and lead member on the Arc board for the environment workstream, said: “As soon as I became Leader of the Council in 2018 I lobbied council leaders and Ministers to ensure the environment was at the centre of the plans for the Arc. This strand of the work was quickly established, and we have around 50 organisations and groups including the RSPB, DEFRA and The Woodland Trust actively working with us to put the environment at the heart of our ambitions and policies. The work Natural Cambridgeshire has been championing to double nature has been adopted by the Arc and will ensure we leave a lasting green legacy including more trees and access to a wide variety of well managed green and blue spaces.”
Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Chair of the Arc Universities Group, said: “With investment, we can better connect and realise the potential of our world-class assets and the know-how created by our area’s people, businesses and institutions. We aim to be a testbed for new ways of living and working including by demonstrating net zero carbon and environmental net gain are achievable and economically beneficial. This connection will unlock the potential across our sector strengths to propel the Arc and the UK into an era of global growth at the vanguard of innovation.”
The Oxford to Cambridge Arc is a strategic area incorporating the ceremonial county areas of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. The Leaders Group is a body comprising local authorities across the Arc, the Cambridge & Peterborough Combined Authority, three local enterprise and business partnerships, England’s Economic Heartland and the Arc Universities Group – which represents all ten universities in the region.
Comment from Bidwells
Patrick McMahon, senior partner at Bidwells, said:
“If central and local government is going to realise the potential of the Arc’s knowledge-based economy, a single, long-term strategic approach is going to be vital, which is why it’s great to see the Oxford to Cambridge Arc Leaders Group providing a unified call for real action among policymakers.
“In March, the government laid out its ambition for the UK to become a research and development powerhouse, fuelled by innovation clusters such as the Arc, by allocating £22bn worth of funding to the sector. However, the public purse is only going to be able to provide so much. Therefore, leveraging private investment from our own shores and overseas is going to be critical to the region’s long-term success.
“The Oxford-Cambridge Arc is the beating heart of UK innovation but a lack of development and investment threatens to price out new start-ups and reduce their ability to attract talent from the region’s world-leading higher education institutes. This, in addition to the glacial pace of the current UK planning system unfortunately puts the region’s long-term growth prospects in jeopardy.”
South Cambridgeshire is the second largest district in Cambridgeshire.