Channelling the strengths of northern aerospace

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Rob Biddlecombe, partner at leading independent law firm and B Corp Brabners, discusses the government’s decision to cancel the Northern leg of HS2, and how leaders across the northern aerospace industry can continue to drive progress for a brighter economy and greener future…

The past month has been anything but quiet for northern industry and the businesses that are central to the region’s future prosperity. The aerospace sector has been no exception, with a number of key government decisions providing unexpected food for thought as firms plan ahead for 2024 and beyond.

Most controversial among them has been the decision to abandon the northern leg of HS2, which garnered days of national media attention and, in many circles, criticism for undermining previous commitments to levelling up.

While there is still significant government investment expected across new and existing northern transport networks in the future, the consensus among industry leaders is that it represents a missed opportunity to boost long-term productivity and support the success of high-growth sectors like aerospace which draw huge amounts of inward investment.

Northern ambition and investment

Whilst the government’s decision is incredibly disappointing for many, and we await further detail on the national approach to connectivity and infrastructure, it’s very encouraging that, nevertheless, positive change across the North is still being driven by organisations working in partnership with each other on projects that transcend political cycles.

It’s this entrepreneurial ambition, often combining the strengths of the region’s public and private sector, that still makes the North an investable proposition.

Our own research undertaken at the end of last year highlighted an increased appetite among UK and international funds to invest in the North. The region’s devolved governance, funding ecosystem, sector clustering, talent, education and real estate were all seen as attractive assets for investors to get behind.

We believe that these factors still apply despite uncertainty surrounding long-term decision making on transport infrastructure.

Indeed, we see plenty of opportunity to maximise that investment potential by delivering progress in four key areas: harnessing the best of our talent and fostering skills for the future; driving forward inclusive innovation through emerging industries; powering sustainable growth; and delivering purpose and social impact for the benefit of all.

Partners and champions such as the North West Aerospace Alliance play a significant part in maintaining momentum and a spotlight on those key areas.

Stronger together

At Brabners, we are also aiming to champion this faith in the existing strengths, talent and resource within the region through our True North initiative. Launched this summer through a series of discussion events, True North is a new network committed to supporting the future of the North.

It unites the region’s most influential voices and purpose-driven organisations, including aerospace leaders like the AMRC, to co-create a path forward – unlocking the potential of the Northern economy.

In the case of the aerospace industry, those discussions have centred on the region’s manufacturing capabilities and the capacity of supply chain and logistics provision to support it.

In the North West, the discussions highlighted the record orderbook recently secured by BAE Systems’ Air division and the potential for it to support local regeneration and put Lancashire at the forefront of defence manufacturing for the next decade.

Also in the North, Sheffield’s SAF Innovation Centre was referenced as contributing to the first net zero transatlantic flight, alongside the significant potential for the area’s further growth – driven by its continued leadership in sustainable innovation.

We’re well aware too that there is huge progress being made between the public and private sectors in identifying and preparing for development the brownfield sites that will facilitate new opportunities for aerospace manufacturers – an area in which we continue to play our part.

Despite the cancellation of the Northern leg of HS2, there is still significant opportunity for all of us to drive progress for a brighter economy and greener future across the northern aerospace industry, and the North as a whole.

For more information on the True North network, and our efforts to boost collaboration in the North, click here.

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Rob Biddlecombe Brabners

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