Here, D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership Chief Executive David Ralph takes time out to answer your submitted questions . . .
Q1) Sustainable development is a trinity of social, environmental and economic growth. Therefore for our area to benefit from true sustainable development we cannot pursue economic growth in isolation. What is D2N2 doing to deliver improvements to the social and environmental aspects of our communities? Is there any funding available for the development of either blue of green infrastructure so that we can harness the social, environmental and economic benefits that they can bring?
DR: D2N2 is committed to delivering the right sort of jobs, in the right sort of places at the right time, ensuring that its capital investments (eg. Buildings) deliver sustainable solutions. This is illustrated by the emphasis of sustainable transport projects in the agreed Growth Deal, round one. There is funding allocated within the ERDF programme for green infrastructure and a commitment to generating skills is a key underpinning component to the D2N2 economic strategy.
Moreover, the LEP is working closely with the Local Nature Partnership on environmental indicators by which we can demonstrate sustainable outcomes across the D2N2 area and have agreed with them a shortlist of priority green infrastructure projects, such as Sherwood Forest and the River Trent corridor which we will be looking to develop into formal action plans.
We also published our low carbon action plan last year and this identifies opportunities to develop low carbon energy solutions.
Q2) There is increasing evidence that good access to natural greenspace including trees and woodland is an important contributor to the health and well being of the population. Would you agree that a healthy population is essential in creating a strong local economy and what do the feel can be done to ensure that ample greenspace is provided particularly in association with new development?
DR: It is indisputable that a healthy population is essential in creating a strong local economy. Due to a heavy workload, we have not resolved yet where the LEP can add most value but given sufficient resources, we would like to play a more active role in this area
Q3) Could you please tell us how you plan to make sure that local voluntary organisations and social enterprises – who are also SMEs- don’t miss out on any opportunities under Thematic Objective 3, SME Competitiveness? And given the statutory role the LEP has concerning the delivery of around €250m of EU structural and Investment funding within Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire, how are D2N2 working with the likes of the voluntary & community sector to secure the biggest “bang for our bucks”?
DR: The LEP has been working closely with One East Midlands in part to keep communications to local voluntary sector organisations, as well as social enterprises, open and informed and also develop an underpinning social inclusion framework for the D2N2 area. That has been consulted on with a number of voluntary sector partners and is being discussed at the D2N2 Board meeting on September 11. We believe this will demonstrate our commitment to making sure our funding opportunities are accessible by all groups, particular those close to communities of places or interest.
Q4) What are their plans to support the logistics sector (both employers & learners) in the East Midlands?
DR: The logistics sector is one of the eight identified key sectors for the D2N2 area. In so doing we are developing a logistics action group that will be tasked with producing a logistics action plan and skills plan for the sector. That work only started in the summer so has a bit of a way to go but it will be developed, working closely with Leicester and Leicestershire, particularly over the next 12 months.
Q5) Given that European Social Investment Funding is just one of at least 10 EU Funding programmes available to organisations in the region, and that our universities aside, we have a very poor record in the region of accessing EU Grant funding. What, if anything, will the LEP be doing to help businesses and others in the region access other European Grant Funding Opportunities?
DR: Horizon 2020 provides further opportunities for businesses and other to access a wide range European funding opportunities. As a LEP, together with other partners, we will be looking to maximise those opportunities for local groups. Our plan is to work with key partners in providing some resource in helping local parties interested in that funding, including the universities and local authorities.
Q7) What is the LEP doing to ensure that funding for Skills is being driven by employers rather than the current supply driven model?
DR: Our Skills for Growth strategy clearly identifies that skills should be employer-led, and our implementation plan clearly demonstrates an employer-led model servicing the priority needs of employers rather than the current provider-based model. This needs to be done in an evolutionary way rather than an all-in-one shout to allow providers sufficient time to adjust their delivery to meet more closely the requirements of the LEP.
Q8) What steps are the LEP taking to maximise “additionality” with other Government & EU funded schemes such as the Access to Finance coaching stream in Growth accelerator and Horizon 2020?
DR: Above I spoke about Horizon 2020 but in regards to access to finance, D2N2 is working closely with other LEPs on an access to finance programme. With the Growth Accelerator we have an understanding to provide an opt-in process as part of our ERDF package. This is not straight forward and needs more work but we feel they will be fully integrated into our business support programme, the D2N2 Growth Hub. It is reasonable for partners to see the outcome of delivery and these things are clearly addressed in our plans.
Q9) Sustainable procurement is becoming a key consideration in public and private sector organisations. How important do you think the role of sustainable procurement will be in driving innovation and growth in the Low Carbon and Environmental Goods and Services Sector over the coming years?
DR: D2N2 recognises with a large, in particular capital programme, securing local and effective procurement which encourages innovation and sustainable growth is important. We have therefore recently started working with our local authorities, and framework providers, on identifying best practice with a view of including it in the statutory conditions of our grants/loans.
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