Image by Gary Butterfield

Why BioYorkshire is the key to delivering a successful devolved York and North Yorkshire

The Devolution Deal currently being negotiated for York and North Yorkshire presents a unique opportunity to deliver a step change for the region - lifting our local economy into higher productivity with better quality jobs, new start-up businesses and new growth opportunities.

Central to this dynamic is BioYorkshire: a ten year programme to create a bioeconomy cluster of world leading innovation in science, research and application - creating new businesses and enduring new employment opportunities supporting the sustainable economy.

BioYorkshire will act as the economic powerhouse for York and North Yorkshire. Led by the University of York, Askham Bryan College and Fera Science Ltd, the BioYorkshire consortium will develop new sustainably sourced supplies of fuel, chemicals and materials from natural crops and the upcycling of bio-waste products. It will support new ways to achieve net zero food production, farming and land use, working with the region’s farmers and food production industries to help drive their innovation to enable more productive and sustainable crop production and environmentally responsible land use. The project will create 4,000 new jobs, drive economic growth, and also enable North Yorkshire to realise its ambition to become one of the first regions in the UK to be carbon negative.

To achieve this plan will require a total investment package of £170m over ten years, covering both capital and revenue expenditure. We think that the benefits to this plan will be felt in the region, but also across the UK, and to the new and growing businesses in the bioeconomy. So we also think that the costs of the scheme should be spread roughly evenly across the 3 groups.

We’re committed as the three partners to bringing in private investment. We’re prepared to underwrite long term patient capital from incubation and acceleration investors (including putting in direct investment from ourselves). We are devising a legal structure to support such financing.

And alongside that, we will be urging a new Mayor, with greater devolved powers, and a democratic remit and platform to deliver across the whole region, to see the case to invest in the unique benefits BioYorkshire will bring to the economic prosperity of the region.

And lastly, we think that there is a strong national case for central government to contribute a third of the financing. A thriving and internationally leading bioeconomy benefits everyone in the UK. Indeed, the UK government’s Innovation Strategy noted the bioeconomy as one of the UK’s “seven technology families of UK strength and opportunity”. Over the remainder of this spending review period - and into the next - we want to work with government to identify investment so that BioYorkshire can start delivering its returns.

Whilst we’ve seen innovative and exciting companies, such as Azotic Technologies, relocate to the region specifically to access the expertise we can provide, we’ve also reached a ceiling on our collective capacity to support such moves and capitalize upon them best for the region. In the past year alone, we’ve seen companies large and small be initially attracted to York and North Yorkshire because of our capability and track record in industrial biotechnology, but ultimately relocating elsewhere (including abroad) because our region does not have the capabilities that is needed to compete on a global stage.

We’re committed that BioYorkshire will prevent these opportunities slipping away. We are ready and prepared to set clear goals for working with Whitehall and the new Combined Authority to target and measure those achievements. But we need a devolution deal which recognises this three way split of funding. And we believe that Whitehall will need to move first, in the devolution agreement and the work that will underpin it, to give a signal of support to the new Mayor, and to private investment. If we can get these things, we are confident in delivering a significant economic and social rate of return that will benefit the whole of York and North Yorkshire.

 

Professor Charlie Jeffery – Vice Chancellor and President, University of York

Dr Andrew Swift – Chief Executive, Fera Science

Dr Tim Whitaker – CEO and Principal, Askham Bryan College

Professor Ian Graham FRS – Director of BioYorkshire