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 in application creating new businesses and enduring new employment opportunities supporting the sustainable economy. York and North Yorkshire is well placed to lead the way in global bioscience innovation. It’s steeped in hundreds of years of farming traditions and associated businesses; 60% of York and North Yorkshire is agricultural land. It hosts the national headquarters of many of the UK’s largest food and drinks processing businesses. Furthermore. Regionally, we have a cluster of excellence in the bioeconomy: from world-leading research and development, to demonstration and commercialisation, with infrastructure assets in close proximity.
BioYorkshire will act as the economic powerhouse for York and North Yorkshire. Led by the University of York, Askham Bryan College and Fera Science, 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 also enable North Yorkshire to realise its ambition to become one of the first regions in the UK to be carbon negative. BioYorkshire is not about academic research. It's an end-to-end project which transforms research into business and economic growth. It will create - and train and re-skill regional talent to equip if for 4,000 high quality jobs across Yorkshire - from agronomists, food technologists and chemists to natural capital economists and robotic and digital experts.
BioYorkshire is an essential element of YNY the devolution because it, uniquely delivers what the region wants to achieve (and urgently needs) in – clean, green growth, sustainable quality employment and international reach from a world leading cluster of excellence for the bioeconomy.
A new Mayor, with greater devolved powers and funding drawn down from central government combined with a democratic remit and platform to deliver across the whole region benefits BioYorkshire. We will be urging the new Mayor (with the funding streams at their disposal) to invest in the unique benefits BioYorkshire will bring to the economic prosperity of the region.
Alongside that, there is a strong case for national government investment. Although BioYorkshire will be a regional cluster of excellence, a thriving and internationally leading bioeconomy benefits everyone in the UK. Indeed, it is a core competitive advantage recognised in various government documents including the latest Innovation Strategy which 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 seek to work with government agencies which fund research and innovation - Innovate UK, the Research Councils and the wider UKRI - to identify investment so that BioYorkshire can start delivering its returns.
This won’t just be a publicly funded project. The three partners are already securing significant sources of private investment coming into YNY, seeking to capitalise on this expertise. In this way we will grow the region’s attractiveness to investment, underwriting long term patient capital from incubation and acceleration investors (including putting in direct investment from ourselves as partner organisations). We are devising a legal structure to support such financing.
Whilst we’ve seen innovative and exciting companies, such as Azotic Technologies, relocate to the region specifically to access the expertise it 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 ecosystem of know-how, technologies, facilities and workforce that is needed to compete on a global stage.
We’re committed that BioYorkshire will prevent these opportunities slipping away. Weare ready and prepared to set clear goals for working with Whitehall and the new Combined Authority to target and measure those achievements.
This success will have many beneficiaries; (i) to the new devolved region; (ii) nationally across the UK; and, (iii) to private companies. Our proposal is that, over our ten-year plan, the funding of what we want to do (which is set out in much more detail elsewhere on this site) will also be drawn evenly across these three groups as well.
We continue to show that we are ready to do our part. As negotiations on the devolution deal continue, we’ll be working to ensure that our plan for funding, running, and delivering the benefits of BioYorkshire remain right at its heart.
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