Philippa Batting, Managing Director of Buckinghamshire Business First
Like all localities, Buckinghamshire has its own challenges when it comes to its economy. It often comes as a surprise to many that it is the most micro economy in the country, with only 80 out of its 34,000 businesses having more than 250 employees.
This surprise is no doubt due to the fact that Buckinghamshire perennially ranks high in the league tables that measure economic strength, such as The UK Competitiveness Index 2019, which looks at factors including productivity, employment rates, start-up rates, educational attainment, and more. Buckinghamshire is placed 3rd in the index and this is further supported by the ScaleUp Institute’s most recent report which showed that growth businesses grow faster in Buckinghamshire than anywhere else in the country.
More micro businesses than anywhere else, but one of the most productive economies and fastest growth rates… what is it about the way things are done in Buckinghamshire that encourages our successful local economy? That’s an economy with high-performing businesses at the heart of the space industry, life sciences, high-performance engineering, the creative industries, food and drink, and tourism, to name just a few.
Part of our success locally is due to the stock placed in partnership building and collaboration. Buckinghamshire has a significant place within the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, and it’s great to witness all of the Growth Hubs and universities covered by the Arc working together to deliver the economic growth that the scheme plans for. We recently saw the launch of the Buckingham Enterprise & Innovation Unit (BEIU) at The Vinson Building at the University of Buckingham. This wonderful, unique facility is rooted in the idea of the local community working together, and business and education collaborating.
The long list of ground-breaking projects that support our local businesses dotted about the county will be familiar to those reading: Silverstone’s Innovation Centre and Sports Engineering Hub; the Westcott Space Cluster that includes the Westcott Business Incubation Centre and the 5G Step-Out Centre; the Digital Innovation Hub at the University Campus Aylesbury Vale (UCAV); Bucks HSC Ventures at Buckinghamshire New University; and our Enterprise Zone which includes sites at Silverstone, Westcott and Arla.
Buckinghamshire Business First, one of the top 5 Growth Hubs in the country, is also a key asset for the local economy. We are a first stop shop for all businesses and offer support with growth challenges, productivity, workforce development, supply chain development and organisational resilience in the face of challenges such as Brexit. We are well connected to both the public and private sector and make it our business to be good at joining the dots for our businesses. We are all about collaborations, and it’s our job to help remove any barriers to growth that businesses may be facing and to work with partners to support the growth of our local economy.
Buckinghamshire Business First now has a team of over 50 people all focused on helping businesses be the best they can be. We are innovating, just like the businesses and partners around us. Our first-of-its-kind Buckinghamshire Business Festival was a great success, and we were delighted to work on it with many of our partners mentioned above, as well as Enterprise Europe Network and the Catapults through Innovate UK.
Our aim has always been to ensure Buckinghamshire is the best place to start and grow a business. Through our business support activity that has led to job creation, business growth, high business survival rates, and an increase in Buckinghamshire’s GVA, we like to think we are a positive contributor to the Entrepreneurial Heart of Britain.