Edinburgh needs to make sure it takes advantage of UK government's 'Levelling Up' agenda – John McLellan

The UK government-backed £1.3bn Edinburgh City Deal has been at the heart of the drive to turn Edinburgh into a major centre for digital, technological and life science innovation, with the promise of creating 21,000 jobs.

Thursday, 3rd February 2022, 12:30 pm
Edinburgh has the potential to create thousands of jobs in the digital, technological and life science sectors (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)
Edinburgh has the potential to create thousands of jobs in the digital, technological and life science sectors (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

The initiative is bearing fruit, with a new Financial Times report citing spin-offs from Edinburgh University as the driving force, illustrated by a $100m investment in Little France-based bioscience firm RoslinCT announced last month.

With more artificial intelligence researchers than anywhere in Europe, and American investors hungry for overseas opportunities, the prize is here to be grasped, as it has been in Cambridge, but one problem is the lack of suitable offices and labs for companies which have grown beyond start-ups but are not yet big enough for their own plant.

But business and industrial land is becoming increasingly scarce as the City Council chases every spare brownfield plot for housing.

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Obviously, expanding companies’ employees need a home so both housing and business demand need to be met and, in fairness, the council’s economy strategy recognises the need to assist business growth. But the new City Plan 2030 framework puts so many barriers in front of potential commercial development beyond tightly designated areas as to be a disincentive.

The universities are the geese which could lay the city’s golden economic eggs, and through the Levelling Up initiative the UK government is increasing its investment in research and development by 40 per cent. But with Glasgow named as one of three new “Innovation Accelerators”, Edinburgh, particularly the council, needs to do a lot more to realise its potential.

John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston

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