Some of the biggest businesses in the region have joined forces with universities to back the £11bn Derby-Nottingham Metro initiative through an advisory body which will develop its own ideas for boosting the economy.
The Derby-Nottingham Metro Growth Board comprises Boots, Rolls-Royce, Toyota, East Midlands Airport, Trent Barton and the Federation of Small Businesses, along with the universities of Derby, Nottingham and Nottingham Trent.
Its members also include the place marketing organisations Marketing Derby and Marketing NG, along with the leaders of Derby and Nottingham City Councils.
The Derby-Nottingham Metro initiative has been launched by the two city councils with the aim of achieving an £11bn boost to the regional economy by 2030 through joint working by local authorities and businesses across the two cities.
The Growth Board has now met for the first time. It is being led by David Williams, the chairman of the law firm Geldards, which has offices in both Derby and Nottingham.
He said: “We’re in the midst of a technology revolution which is transforming many industries, and we have the challenge of Brexit ahead of us. We’re also in an era when we are seeing other UK city regions come together to do deals which will benefit their wider economies.
“The Derby-Nottingham Metro initiative is an important response to that, and one we’re here to support. But the Growth Board is also something else – a recognition that we need to go beyond business as usual and meet the challenges we face head on by creating an ambitious vision of the future.
“We fully support projects like HS2 and believe that the two city councils should aim for better connectivity and better shared services. But we’re also a critical friend with our own ideas about ways in which the metro economy needs to do better.
“We won’t be shy about making our views known, not just locally but in Westminster and Whitehall too. Our intention is to come forwards with compelling proposals which we believe government needs to invest in to support a real engine for growth.”
The Growth Board’s initial meeting identified a number of priority areas which will form the foundations for a series of proposals for action in the coming months.
They are likely to centre on using technology such as smartphone apps to make it easier for people to travel in and around the two cities, making the most of opportunities for growth around HS2 and East Midlands Airport, investing in the latest digital networks, and ensuring the education system helps students develop the skills of the future.
Paul Harris, director of economic development at Rolls-Royce, said: “As one of the world’s leading industrial technology companies, we have our eyes fixed very firmly on the future.
“We plan to be pioneering the power that matters in the future and that requires that we continue to develop the talent, ideas and facilities we have in this region. The region must in turn evolve to enable us and its other businesses to thrive in an increasingly electrical and digital world.”
Both city leaders attended the initial Metro Growth Board meeting and welcomed the ideas put forwards.
Cllr Ranjit Banwait, leader of Derby City Council, said: “The Derby-Nottingham Metro initiative is about leveraging the strength of two great cities to build a better-functioning metro economy that delivers more opportunities for local people. In that sense, it’s as much about the people of the communities we represent as councillors as it is about the businesses on Pride Park.
“We have to plan for the future and it is critical that we have businesses large and small playing a part in that process.”
Cllr Jon Collins, leader of Nottingham City Council, added: “We need to involve all of our major stakeholders in driving growth in the metro area. Our universities are leading teaching and research institutions and they can play a significant role in creating the talent and technologies we need to remain a competitive investment location.
“We’ve got a lot to be proud of in Derby and Nottingham, but a lot of challenges to overcome, not least providing jobs and opportunities for ordinary people. We want to see the Growth Board coming up with solid ideas which can help sustain and create jobs for the long-term.”