I was delighted to welcome Chris Skidmore MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, to join me and leaders from businesses, universities and other organisations, to launch our region’s first Local Industrial Strategy on Friday.
It’s a crucial step forward, setting out how we will work towards raising productivity levels and creating high-quality, well paid jobs across the West of England. As the world changes around us, we need this plan to make sure we stay ahead of the curve, creating a stronger economy and a better place to live and work for all.
A great example of the innovation central to our strategy is the work going on to develop connected and autonomous vehicles. I hosted a workshop last week with people leading in this field, to look at how we can work together to develop cutting-edge technology including self-driving cars, which could revolutionise our lives.
Investing in infrastructure that reduces energy demand, lowers carbon emissions and is resilient to the impacts of climate change, is at the heart of our strategy, and on Friday I moved a motion at the West of England Combined Authority committee meeting to declare a climate emergency.
Our region has already made a strong commitment to tackling climate change. There has been a reduction in carbon emissions of 35% across our region since 2005; at the same time our region’s economy grew by 46% according to the Office of National Statistics.
But we know we need to do more. Climate change is a challenge recognised by all the leaders of the Combined Authority and we’re already backing our ambitious plans with investment to ensure a clean, sustainable future for everyone. To support this work further, the WECA Committee agreed to develop a series of pilot projects to supporting our move to a low carbon future and this week launched new grants to help businesses in the West of England improve their energy efficiency.