Delivering great jobs: Towards a regional industrial strategy for Tees Valley

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Published date
06 Oct 2017
During the political conference season, debates have ebbed and flowed on the rationale for and scale of state intervention to support national and regional economies.
Image: Jez Campbell/Getty Images

In a new report produced by researchers at Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS), Newcastle University, in-depth analysis was undertaken, including consultation with key actors, in order to generate a series of evidence-based policy recommendations on how a new Regional Industrial Strategy for Tees Valley could help more and better-quality jobs.

At the core of the argument for a new Tees Valley Industrial Strategy is an explicit recognition of the active role of and partnership between national and devolved government, and for the UK Government to signal clearly and quickly, to existing and potential investors, its long-term economic vision for the UK, post-Brexit.

There is growing international evidence that the most successful global economies involve governments that embrace more thoughtful, longer-term, evidenced-based strategies about how public bodies, at all geographical levels, can work towards improving productivity, higher levels of economic growth, and reduced social and spatial inequalities.

Building a strong place-based dimension into the UK Industrial Strategy is essential if prosperity is to be spread more evenly across the country. Such an approach requires local inclusive industrial strategies.

The CURDS report calls for a Tees Valley Industrial Strategy that draws and builds upon the distinct physical infrastructure and assets of Tees Valley, which, when combined and integrated together, will help the regional economy realise its full potential as the epicentre of efforts to decarbonise UK industry.

Although Tees Valley’s high levels of CO2 emissions presents significant environmental challenges, there is a real opportunity for Tees Valley to play a leading role, using its existing skills and expertise, in supporting the UK’s just transition towards a low carbon economy. The report also argues that a Tees Valley Industrial Strategy should also focus efforts on building a more inclusive economy that works for all people, especially those living in communities that are facing the stark consequences and implications of industrial restructuring, global financial crisis, recession and austerity.

A series of tools, such as Carbon Capture and Storage, skills, inward investment, infrastructure, new forms of funding and finance and public and private sectors that generate and capture more forms of social value are required in order to realise the aims and objectives of the Tees Valley Strategy.  

Here, there is a pivotal individual and collective role for different actors, such as local authorities, the Metro Mayor, Combined Authority, business and trade unions. The TUC, in particular, should adopt a smart approach in how it deploys its resources to influence the Tees Valley Industrial Strategy to ensure that more jobs from across a wider range of sectors are of higher quality, have progression routes and are based on good employment terms and conditions.

The report proposes over twenty recommendations on how a Tees Valley Industrial Strategy could help create more and better-quality jobs, and includes measures calling for:

  • The government to sign off the business case prepared by Teesside Collective setting out the rationale for Tees Valley to play a leading role in UK CCS technology and industry.
  • The government to support the H21 project to feed hydrogen into the national gas grid, as part of a strategy to develop the hydrogen economy. 
  • The government to encourage more investment in ‘waste from energy’ jobs and industry.
  • The Metro Mayor and Combined Authority to develop a Tees Valley Wealth Fund to generate new revenues and capital to reinvest back into the Tees Valley economy.
  • The government to fully devolve the adult education budget to Tees Valley.

These interventions, embedded within a long-term vision, strategy and investment plan, should enable Tees Valley to build a more productive and inclusive economy, thus widening and deepening its position as a vital industrial hub within the UK economy, and a distinct place that is able to attract high value investment and create more great jobs.