Lancaster University: University backing for new business cluster to support technology industry in Lancashire and Cumbria

A NEW businesses network has come together to resolve some of the biggest issues facing the electech sector – while ensuring they are well placed to take advantage of huge opportunities on the horizon.

The Electech Innovation Cluster Morecambe Bay and South Lakes held its first engagement event at Lancaster University recently and unveiled big plans to support member organisations.

Electech is the name given to the industry which produces the electronics, electrical hardware and embedded software essential for the existence of technology, from the tiniest mobile phone chip to huge power stations. According to the government’s recent Electech report, “more than £100 billion a year” is contributed to the UK economy as a result of the sector.

During the meeting, cluster board member Chris Mayne, Managing Director of Forsberg Services Ltd in Heysham, outlined the current focus areas the group would take forward, while asking for more people to get involved.

Following the event, he added: “We’re really pleased with how successful our first meet-and-greet was. There was a real buzz and energy in the room.

“The event highlighted the benefits of the cluster and the huge range of opportunities that will be available for our members.

“Most importantly, our aims to tackle skills and training, facilities, representation and innovation took a major step forward. We really feel this is just the start of the exciting things to come for the region.”

Some of the priorities discussed by the members at the event included:

Access to R&D funding
Workforce retention
Upcoming opportunities around cyber security
Kate Houlden, Managing Director of Like Technologies Ltd in Lancaster, said: “Just one of the many benefits we are going to bring to our members is to improve the provision of skills in our area.

“Many of our members, Like Technologies included, face a skills gap meaning recruitment and retention is often a challenge.

“The cluster aims to build strong relationships between small businesses within the electech industries and local education providers so we can help influence the training available to the local community, whether that be school starters, university students or those seeking a new career in Electech. We want to ensure we retain talent in the Bay area.”

Dion Williams, Associate Dean for Enterprise & Engagement and Director of Research, Enterprise & Innovation at Lancaster University, said he was pleased the institution had been able to support the development of the cluster and host the networking event at the University’s flagship Health Innovation Campus.

He added: “The cluster came about when a number of organisations involved in this sector realised they shared similar challenges and saw the value in coming together to try to resolve them.

“They have already achieved so much in bringing together organisations of various sizes across the sector, as well as skills partners and local government business support functions, to share key learnings and advice on a range of issues.

“The number of organisations attending this initial engagement event showed how important some of these concerns are to the future success of this vital industry in our region.

“From conversations with decision-makers in government I know how powerful these kinds of groups can be in providing a strong combined regional voice when lobbying for support and levelling-up opportunities, such as the recent announcement that the new National Cyber Force will be located in Samlesbury to help create a North West cyber corridor from Manchester to Lancaster and beyond.”

The cluster is now looking for other organisations to get involved and bring forward any issues they may be facing.

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