Norwich/Cambridge link will put A11 tech corridor on map
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015
A technology corridor stretching between Norwich and Cambridge could become the UK's newest hotspot for economic growth as an expanding partnership seeks to maximise the region's business potential.
By drawing on the benefits of Cambridge's growing popularity and standing as a world class academic and research centre, thousands of jobs and hundreds of thousands of square metres of employment space could be opened up along the 64-mile route between the two cities.
The rationale for a tech corridor was first investigated last year, following the dualling of the A11, with an initial focus placed on the Breckland, South Norfolk and Forest Heath areas creating better links with Norwich. But discussions with East Cambridgeshire Council and the Greater Cambridgeshire Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership has now brought the potential for wider investment on board as they have joined the partnership.
By extending the corridor to Cambridge, and increasing its partners to seven councils and two LEPs, it brings the opportunity to fully exploit its potential as an attractor of investment.
At a meeting at Breckland Council, one of the original partners, yesterday, its cabinet agreed to formalise their membership of the Cambridge Norwich Partnership and to support efforts to secure further funding for the project.
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They also agreed that the council would continue to work to unlock key employment sites, particularly around Thetford, Snetterton and Attleborough.
Philip Cowen, Breckland's
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executive member for growth and commercialisation, said: 'This initiative is trying to put the A11 on the map. Most of us in Norfolk know where the A11 is but no one else in the world has heard of it.
The most significant thing that has happened is accessing the economy in Cambridge, an area of the world which everyone has heard of.
'Norwich has seen significant growth in research parks and we have a huge opportunity for local authorities through this part of the world to work together to deliver first class facilities for national and international businesses to thrive.'
Pablo Dimoglou, executive member for finance, said it was expected that house prices in Cambridge would soon exceed London as it became a more attractive place for people to live and work.
'It makes sense to push them this way,' he said.
The next steps for the project would be to promote the tech corridor as an investable proposition to a wider audience, to establish a website, social media outlets and attend the MIPIM fair, a four-day real estate exhibition, conference and networking event in London this month.
They will then launch the brand at an event at the Houses of Parliament, a series of roadshows and presentations at tech and investment fairs.
A47 must be next
Now the benefits of the A11 dualling are being realised, more pressure needs to be placed on progressing the dualling of the A47, Breckland councillors agreed.
Philip Cowen, executive member for growth, said they were conscious that the dualling of the east/west trunk road would open up even more opportunities in the region.
'The success of the A11 demonstrates what could happen with the A47,' he said.
Chief executive Anna Graves said the council had started to engage with the business community to look at working around the A47. 'Although the A11 is important, equally to Breckland is the A47,' she said. Councillor Gordon Bambridge said it would bring 'tremendous benefits' to the county.
John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council, said: 'There's no doubt that the universities at either end – the University of East Anglia with life sciences and Cambridge University with what they do – are spinning out all sorts of ideas.
'But Norwich and Cambridge can be expensive places to establish a business, so that's where the link corridor comes in. It means we can get businesses set up at Hethersett and Hethel, rather than in Hanoi.
'We are trying to get together a series of investment opportunities so that we can harness the growth. There's no point doing the hard work in getting people to the universities, developing them and then letting them and their ideas go.
Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman has previously said the idea of an 'innovation corridor' could drive a new cycle of growth in the area.
He said: 'With the dualling of the A11 and A47 secured, I believe we now have a once-in-a-generation chance to make the eastern region the new California, a pioneering hub of cutting-edge technology businesses, driving new jobs, opportunities and skills training across the region.'
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