Tech corridor key to 'level up' Norfolk

Programme director at the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor, Linn Clabburn, hosting the first investme

Programme director at the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor, Linn Clabburn, hosting the first investment pitch session - Credit: Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor/Twitter

The oft-quoted but as yet unfulfilled promise of ‘levelling up’ is finally starting to come to the political fore as Covid slowly starts to recede – and it is vital that here in Norfolk we leverage the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor (often referred to as the A11 tech corridor) as one of the major ways of ensuring that our part of the world is not left behind.

Nick O'Leary, head of commercial agency at Arnolds Keys

Nick O'Leary, head of commercial agency at Arnolds Keys - Credit: Arnolds Keys

If the ambition really is for Britain to become a high-skills, high-wage economy, then improvements in productivity will be key – and the kind of employers that the A11 tech corridor could attract are just the type that are needed if that aspiration is to become reality.

Much has been written about the ‘Oxford/Cambridge arc’ and it would be wrong to think that the A11 tech corridor can exactly replicate that knowledge-based success story. What we have to offer is different, but no less attractive to inward investors.

At one end of the tech corridor, Norwich is home to both a fast-growing digital tech sector, as well as internationally renowned research into food and agri-tech. Indeed the city has one of the largest concentrations of plant bioscientists in the world.

At the other end, Cambridge has a world-leading life science cluster (with the largest concentration of bioscientists in the world) and a strong and well-established deep-tech sector. A strong renewable energy sector stretches along the Norfolk and Suffolk coast and into the tech corridor.

Underpinning these sectors is a diverse engineering and manufacturing expertise that can turn cutting-edge research and ideas into products and services – something we see in practice throughout the corridor.

So you can see the potential. It is vital that we work to ensure that potential is fully realised. The corridor offers unique employment and growth opportunities to both existing and prospective employers – and these are the firms that can bring high-quality, well-paid jobs to Norfolk, and ensure that the levelling-up agenda doesn’t end up as simply being empty words for our part of the world.

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With development opportunities right along the A11, including the Food Enterprise Park at Honingham, the Wymondham Energy Park, the Hethel Technology Park, and towns such as Attleborough, Snetterton and Thetford offering a winning combination of available land and strong skills bases, the tech corridor ought to be a very attractive prospect for inward investors.

Norfolk has not always been the best at blowing its own trumpet outside the county borders, but this reticence cannot continue. No one is going to fight our corner if we don’t fight it ourselves. We have the right offer, we have a favourable geography, now we have to make the case – convincingly and confidently.

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