I believe we stand on the cusp of something special in our area, a once-in-a-generation chance to drive a new cycle of growth, investment and jobs. For too long our area has been treated by successive Governments as a ‘rural backwater’. My mission when I was first elected a Member of Parliament – having spent fifteen years starting new technology companies in the Eastern region – was to put Norfolk Innovation Economy on the map.
That’s why I have spent the last five years working with business, entrepreneurs and councillors on this ‘Rural Renaissance’. Through my Norfolk Way project, a not for profit social enterprise to promote a more entrepreneurial rural economy. This has seen new infrastructure investment in our roads (dualling the A11 and A47), a landmark £60m investment in high-speed broadband and the ongoing campaign for rail upgrades for an ‘Innovation Express’ between Norwich and Cambridge.
The truth is that the Eastern region is fast becoming the home of the most innovative companies in Europe, especially within the fields of food, medicine and energy – known broadly as ‘life sciences’. As a Member of Parliament and the first ever Minister for Life Sciences, I am honoured to be responsible for driving forward this agenda and promoting the work of Norfolk entrepreneurs and businesses in Government and around the world.
Norfolk Innovation Companies are right at the forefront with innovation hubs like the low carbon Hethel Engineering Centre and the globally respected Norwich Research Park, employing 11,000 people and home to a variety of world-leading enterprises like the John Innes Centre and Sainsbury Laboratory.
Over the next five years, I will continue to champion Norfolk Innovation, attracting investment, jobs and businesses to our area.