Posted on April 5, 2017 by staff

Lancashire ‘must exploit tech to lead Northern Powerhouse’


Lancashire needs to exploit technology to make sure it has a seat at the Northern Powerhouse top table.

That was the message from a series of influential business leaders ahead of BusinessCloud’s Lancashire Powerhouse conference on April 19.

The half-day conference forms part of St George’s Day Festival and will take place in Lytham St Annes.

It is being sponsored by Roundhouse Properties and is free to attend.

Stephen Johnson, director and founder of Chorley-based ROQ, is one of 14 confirmed speakers and said it’s vital Northern Powerhouse extends beyond Liverpool and Manchester.

“We need people lobbying hard to extend the focus from the bigger cities to ensure we get the right type of funding,” he said.

“Lancashire has tremendous heritage in industry and have been pioneers in previous generations – we have ‘world change’ in our DNA.

“We need to identify the next major industrial change and back it hard.

“Technology will bring major opportunities for automation and that in turn will increase our productivity as a nation and obviously a county.

“In pure economic terms, if we can significantly increase our productivity per capita, our GDP will significantly increase – a key measure of economic growth.

“At the micro level, then Lancashire has to aim to be part of the driving force behind this move to making technology work better for us.

“I believe there is too much fear of technology on what roles it might take away; we should look through a different lens and think about the opportunities technology gives us so we have more things to do.

“We should be excited.”

He’ll be joined at the event by Kate Willard, who holds a number of senior roles including head of corporate projects at Stobart Group  and chair of Atlantic Gateway.

She said: “It is imperative that we hear Lancashire’s voice as part of developing the Northern Powerhouse. At the core of this discussion is the issue of ownership.

“The Northern Powerhouse belongs to the north,  to all of the north and all of its people.”

In terms of technology she said: “We can no longer talk about digital and creative as being anything less than the language of growth and the breath of innovation.”

Stewart Townsend is the managing director of Digital Lancashire and highlighted digital clusters like Lancaster and Burnley as being pivotal to the county’s economy.

“We have a large ecommerce base with organisations such as EKM taking on Shopify across the globe and advanced manufacturing leading the way with industrial 3d printing organisations such as FDM then Lancashire is a big voice in the Northern Powerhouse focus,” he said.

“Technology is key. Look at how digital can transform an organisation across all its business units from automating the starting processes for an employee to streamlining customer service through bots, productivity increases can be found throughout any organisation no matter the size which translates into more revenue into the business to drive future job growth and training.”

The other confirmed speakers are: David Haythornthwaite, chairman, Tangerine Group;  Jeremy Lefton, managing director, Roundhouse Properties; Matthew Hirst, CEO, Utiligroup; Mark Woodward, CEO, Printed Cup Company; Paul Bailey, managing director, Optimum Rx Group; Luke Massie, managing director, Vibe Tickets; David Jones, managing director, VEKA UK;  Claire Fryer, managing director, Mosaic Care Group; and Keith Edwards, managing director, TES Radio.