Some would say, me included, that BU has until recently been rather insular and not very well embedded within its region. We have often viewed with suspicion requests to collaborate and seen our region simply as a source of enterprise income rather than a source of fruitful collaboration. During the last year we have spent a huge amount of time and effort in changing this and embracing the true concept of knowledge exchange as a real, meaningful and two-way exchange of information. As a result our influence within the region is growing and we are seen by many key stakeholders as crucial to generating regional economic growth, something which is a mirror of current government policy. As a Member of the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), where I represent both our region’s Universities, I have used my position to promote a more open and accessible HE sector willing to engage and invest in our region’s growth. The LEP is currently working on its Local Growth Strategy, along with a regional Skills Plan and a strategy to underpin its future management of EU Structural Investment Funds (EUSIF). Graduate retention and the creation of high skills jobs are keys to continued economic growth within Dorset. BU believes that the Creative and Digital, along with the Health and Social Care sectors are crucial to achieving this and we are actively promoting these areas along with more traditional ones like advanced manufacturing and big data.
By way of illustration, in June this year we helped to orchestrate the signing of a regional Manifesto for the Creative and Digital Economy which brought together private and public bodies, as well as the regions’ politicians, in a commitment to support and grow the creative and digital sector. The long-term vision is to establish Dorset as an international hub for creative and digital businesses.
A key outcome from the manifesto was the creation of a working group tasked with turning the manifesto’s vision into a reality. The working group, chaired by David Ford, Chief Executive of Bright Blue Day, is made up of senior representatives from business, the public sector and education. BU is wholly committed to driving delivery of the manifesto’s vision and we have made a number of commitments (both financial and in-kind) to support the work. One of these was a commitment of staff time from BU and Samantha Leahy-Harland from OVC is spending half her working week supporting David Ford on taking forward the manifesto. Currently the team are finalising the brand for the initiative which I hopefully will be able to share very soon. Another commitment made by BU and Bournemouth Borough Council was to support Matt Desmier, a creative consultant, in the creation of Think Create Do, an online portal to support the creative and digital media economy locally. Think Create Do will include a jobs board with opportunities for students, a news feed, events diary and a directory of local businesses. The site goes live in the autumn and I’ll post with more details in due course. Matt Desmier is of course also behind the annual Silicon Beach Conference [http://www.siliconbeach.eu/index.html], now in its third year, and of which BU is proud to again be a sponsor. Longer term we hope to support the creation of Dorset’s own creative and digital village. I will keep you posted and would be happy to discuss our regional agenda with groups of interested staff over the next few months.