City can thrive if it meets ‘three grand challenges’ | Glasgow Chamber of Commerce
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City can thrive if it meets ‘three grand challenges’

By Stuart Patrick, Chief Executive of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce

Early in December, the eight local authorities that make up the Glasgow City Region together launched their collective strategy for the biggest urban economy in Scotland.

There is much in the strategy for the business community to welcome and I have been especially impressed by the work of Andrew Robertson and the Regional Intelligence Hub team in gathering, reviewing and presenting the data upon which the plan is based.

At its core is what has been named the ‘Three Grand Challenges’ which must be tackled to help Glasgow further along the transformation journey.

We have built a more resilient economy in the past 20 years and that resilience has twice been challenged – by the Financial Crisis in 2007/8 and now perhaps more fundamentally by the current Covid 19 crisis. Some of our most important assets which we have based much of our city regional growth upon – our town and city centres, our airport, and our cultural and tourism attractions – are all under the most intense pressure and we cannot yet be sure what growth model we will be using when this crisis is past. 

But what has been achieved in the past two decades will hold us in good stead - our population is growing again after decades of decline, our skills base has been a magnet for business investment both home-grown and indigenous, new industries are emerging around our research institutions and Glasgow has become a trusted and effective host destination for the world as COP26 has just demonstrated.

Our transformation was far from finished though even before coronavirus struck. The Three Grand Challenges are a fair reflection of that.

Low productivity is a problem shared by the larger UK cities and the strategy strikes a solid balance between further nurturing of high growth sectors like health and life sciences, and directly tackling low productivity in the foundational economy where many businesses have borne the brunt of coronavirus restrictions.  

Ensuring that the region’s three emerging science and technology innovation districts repeat the 20 year success of the International Financial Services District will be amongst the most visible signs that we are achieving the diversification of our economy into high skill, high productivity business with the good quality, well paid jobs that we all want to see.

At the same time that diversification prepares Glasgow City Region for the artificial intelligence revolution. The strategy must surely treat that revolution as a golden opportunity for Glasgow’s future prosperity. But prosperity alone will not be enough.

We have unfinished business in spreading opportunities to all our fellow citizens. Poor health is a brake on our success and too many neighbourhoods remain detached from our economy. This is the historic just transition we have not yet achieved. Nor can we have lasting prosperity without achieving our net zero goals. We all know the scale of the new just transition we must now deliver.

I know that the business community will be robustly committed to playing its part in all three challenges. Businesses large and small want to support new talent from any and all parts of our region and make their contribution to reaching net zero by 2030.  It’s not just that their customers and their funders demand it (although they most certainly do); it’s because so many of our business leaders live and work in this city region and they want to make a personal difference to their home.

We look forward to collaborating in the delivery of this strategy and loudly championing  Glasgow’s case to secure the decisions we need to make the strategy a success.

This article was first published in The Herald on Wednesday 12 January 2022

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