Thames Valley Forum exists to create ideas and impetus to help shape the region in the coming decade to ensure it is at the forefront of leading a prosperous new economic future for the UK.
The 2020s was set to be a transformative decade for the UK economy, with a level of change not seen since the 1980s. This was with the UK’s departure from the European Union requiring a bold new way of envisioning how the economy can be a world leading success as an independent country. With the context of climate change, the UK hosting COP 26, and technology transforming business and society the change was due to be immense.
Then along came the Covid 19 pandemic. Suddenly all of these issues, plus new ones, have become critical as the global economy in effect restarts following a crisis which has forced the world to stand still, do things differently and reflect. Including the tragic loss of life that has taken place and the economic damage caused.
The Covid 19 pandemic is a major catalyst for change being sooner and more transformative than had been predicted. The need for ideas, to create them, to shape them, to gather them, to share them, to improve them and to act on them has never been greater.
Why the Thames Valley? Well, I love this place, I care about this place, it’s home to me and my family, but what is more is that, alongside a London powerhouse, it has been at the forefront of the positive economic changes that have been seen over the past 40 years. This includes the technology industry, advanced engineering, life sciences, financial and professional services, inward investment and UK success stories. It is one of the most likely places to lead the new economy for the UK and acting as a showcase for the country, a shop window and a launching pad. All parts of the UK will need to succeed as part of the ‘levelling up’ agenda, but let’s make sure levelling up is an upwards movement and is about levelling up the equality of opportunity for all parts of the UK to be world leaders.
All that was required was a strategic framework and therefore Thames Valley Future was born as the concept that would be both high level and detailed, integrated and ambitious.
I have given the Thames Valley Future project a one year time scale in order to do justice to the breadth and seriousness of the issues that need to be addressed, plus it remains uncertain just how and when we will move on from the current crisis. But at the same time, to have a moment fixed ahead when the work can move on from talk and ideas to actually taking the recommendations to the next level and looking at action.
Thames Valley Forum has set out four elements that will be the building blocks of Thames Valley Future. The first is the skills agenda and I am working with a group of business leaders on some real practical ways to make a game changing difference in having the most relevantly and future proofed talented people in this region.
The next three areas are 1) built environment – that means the infrastructure, the property, the transport, the houses and office space to allow the region to achieve its goals 2) sustainability – this is, will be and has to be the biggest subject over the next decade as the world learns to live within its means to avoid disaster and 3) the Future of Work – meaning technology, people, productivity and how we adapt to a post Covid 19 world.
Plus the Thames Valley Future banner is broad enough that sections in sectors, towns and any relevant topics outside the key themes can be addressed. All of the project and programmes will come together in a year from now as a major report for the future blue print of the region.
Let’s shape the future and make it a success.