In a couple of weeks time I will be joining a Trade Mission to China which will at least in part be promoting trade and investment opportunities in the North of England. Notwithstanding an element of scepticism regarding Northern Powerhouse, particularly since the " pausing " of Leeds-Manchester electrification, the idea does seem to have captured the imagination elsewhere, and that's something we have to get the maximum mileage out of. To do this one problem to be overcome is that since the days of the Northern Way nobody has done any work on what are the pan-northern economic strengths and opportunities.
Yesterday I hosted a meeting of local authority leaders and LEP chairs from across the north and we were joined by Treasury Minister Jim O'Neill, who gave us his perspective on the economic prospects for the north acting as a ( virtual ) single economic unit. There was a really good discussion with some key messages not least that of the need to collaborate across the region rather than pretend we are in competition with each other. Transport for the North are about to commission an independent economic analysis of the north and the meeting agreed to piggy-back on that work to identify elements of the Northern economy that are both pan-Northern and have the scale and depth to be globally significant.
There are some obvious candidates, for example Advanced Manufacturing, Health and Life Sciences, Energy and Low Carbon, and Logistics. There may be others that emerge from the study but if we are going to successfully promote the North, we need an economic narrative that does more than claim world-class status for some of our industrial sectors but also has the evidence to back it up. The aim is to have that evidence in place before the end of the calender year.