Norwich-Cambridge tech corridor launched with aim of adding £500m to region’s economy

From left to right, Adrian Cannard, Mark Pendlington, Elizabeth Truss, George Freeman and Aslam Fari

From left to right, Adrian Cannard, Mark Pendlington, Elizabeth Truss, George Freeman and Aslam Farikullah at the official launch of the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor. Picture: James Fletcher - Credit: Archant

An ambitious strategy to strengthen the east's high-tech knowledge economy has been unveiled in parliament, with claims it could generate more than £500m for the region.

The shaded areas show were the A11 technology corridor would cover

The shaded areas show were the A11 technology corridor would cover - Credit: Archant

But businesses say collaboration, local government backing and strong infrastructure are key to ensuring the A11 technology corridor becomes a reality.

It is hoped the Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor will develop the area into a centre for innovation, with 9,000 jobs created, £558m added to the economy and 20,000 new homes and 708,200 sq m of industrial and commercial floor space built by 2031.

Businesses, politicians and councils yesterday met in London to launch the vision, which identifies 11 locations in which to focus growth - including a northern technology growth hub at Hethel, a central hub at Thetford Enterprise Park and a southern hub in Red Lodge.

Paul Birch, managing director of Pangean Engineering, which is based at Hethel Engineering Centre, said the plans - which will focus on engineering, agriculture and manufacturing - could build the east a reputation as a pioneering technology zone if firms get behind it.

'There needs to be a number of collaboration events between each of the various areas,' he said. 'It needs to create a network - research parks alongside private businesses, so that we can all get the benefits.'

He said the corridor brand also needed to be marketed externally.

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'There is an awful lot of technology in Norfolk already and along the corridor to Cambridge,' he said. 'But a brand to hang the hat on is something that we don't have. We need to be able to say 'we are a tech company from Norfolk' and have that recognised.'

The vision was announced in January after a report, A11 Growth Corridor Feasibility Study, was commissioned by South Norfolk, Breckland and Forest Heath councils.

David Morgan, chief executive of MSF Technologies, which is also Hethel-based, said a continued focus on strengthening infrastructure and the support of local governments in creating enterprise zones were key.

He said the firm hoped to move out of Hethel by 2018 and was looking for a base in the corridor to accommodate 600 employees.

'Being close to good export ports, airports and an easy route to London make this area very attractive,' he said, 'and I hope the corridor will highlight what a great place to do business it is.'

Meanwhile Richard Bridgman, chairman of Thetford manufacturers Warren Services, said the plans could create an 'eastern powerhouse', tackling skills shortages and bringing prosperity up the A11.

'Cambridge is overflowing, so I support anything that can move business up to Norwich,' he said. 'This is an opportunity to create an eastern powerhouse and grow support among businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk.'

Mark Pendlington, chairman of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). said the corridor would be a 'real enterprise highway'.

He said: 'It will connect our key growth sectors with the major universities, research hubs and centres for business located here, as well as London. The area is a magnet for new investment and new jobs.'

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