Written by: Frank Holmes, Chair. Founding Partner, Gambit Corporate Finance LLP
The world today is full of challenges that can often seem overwhelming.
Climate change, competitiveness, sustainable economic development, and making sure growth benefits the entire community – all these can appear too big for any of us to tackle.
And that’s no surprise, because they are. To imagine that we could come close to solving these issues without working together would be madness.
The word ecosystem is often used in business to describe the complex network of self-supporting relationships that sustain business sectors. It’s an appropriate word, borrowed from the environmental sciences, to think also about the even broader complexities of economies as a whole.
Thinking in these terms reveals how mutually dependent we all are, just like the plants and animals in a living ecosystem. While individuals in a natural ecosystem compete for scarce resources, at an interspecific level none would survive without the others. The pollinators and flowering plants do not collaborate in a conscious sense, but without each other both would die.
It’s this sense of our mutual interdependence that lies at the heart of the Cardiff Capital Region’s approach. At the heart of it are our 10 local authorities, that have come together to pool their efforts into securing economic growth. Each has recognised that on their own they can only achieve so much, and that their own prospects depend as much on what’s happening over the border in the neighbouring boroughs as it does on anything they can do alone.
But that’s just the start of it. Our 10 local authorities, powerful as their joint efforts may be, could not hope to achieve much without working with the Welsh Government and the UK Government, to leverage the greater resources that only those bodies can provide.
Finally – and this is especially close to my heart – our work depends crucially on collaboration between the public and private sectors. Government alone cannot produce economic growth, it depends crucially on the entrepreneurial skills of private sector employers to do that.
And while today’s politicians and civil servants are very knowledgeable about the economy, they still benefit greatly from the experience and insights that only those who have worked in the private sector can provide.
That’s why our Economic Growth Partnership brings together some of our top business leaders, along with leading academics, to advise the political leaders gathered in the Regional Cabinet. The representation of business at this level is unprecedented.
But it’s not just about collaboration, it’s also about cohesion, about working together in a connected and complimentary way towards a common goal. Cohesion is a fundamental building block of what we are trying to do.
Cardiff Capital Region has £1.3bn of City Deal funding, but £734m of that is ring-fenced for the South Wales Metro, leaving us £495m that we can invest in economic development. To achieve the transformation we are hoping for we need to leverage a further £4bn in private sector investment. That’s the final and perhaps most important way we are mutually dependent – we need the private sector to invest, and the private sector needs us in the Cardiff Capital Region to provide the environment and opportunities to make such investment worthwhile.
The City Deal is a unique programme, and a departure from the normal governmental way of doing things. But it’s not just about a programme, it’s more than that. In the Cardiff Capital Region we are trying to create a stronger, more competitive and vibrant region, with good quality, sustainable jobs and a better distribution of the benefits of growth.
Collaboration and cohesion on government policy at every level, plus bonafide public and private sector engagement in business, education and social enterprise, are priority objectives for all the region’s leaders, and key to Cardiff Capital Region becoming investable.