Second Regional Cluster Development Impact Report launched as £1million is announced to turbo-charge regional support for coastal communities

• Department for Transport backed initiative delivered through Maritime UK, in partnership with Mersey Maritime.
• Regional Cluster Development Programme complete fourth year of activity with publication of the second ‘Annual Report’.
• £1m ‘Cluster Development Fund’ announced by Maritime Minister at Regional Showcase event at London International Shipping Week
• Ongoing focus on regional growth guaranteed, responding to a call to action by the Transport Select Committee and embedded in the ambition of Maritime 2050.

Maritime UK has published the second Annual Report into its government backed ‘Regional Cluster Development Programme’ at the Global Maritime Hub during London International Shipping Week 2023 (LISW).

The report launch comes at a time when a renewed focus on the importance of regional cluster organisations is confirmed with a major funding boost from the Department for Transport. Speaking at the LISW Regional Showcase event, Maritime Minister, Baroness Vere, has announced a £1million fund to support the work of dynamic and focused regional cluster organisations charged with the delivery of Maritime 2050 in their localities.

The fund demonstrates the commitment of HM Government to support the maritime industries’ ambition to forge a cleaner, greener, and more vibrant industry around the coastal communities of the United Kingdom. The significant funding allocation will help to accelerate the development of maritime clusters across the country, helping to drive collaboration between industry, academia and government, key to delivering economic growth and jobs in the sector while meeting environmental goals.

Regional Growth is one of the five identified priority themes of Maritime UK which in turn correspond to key ambitions set out within the government’s Maritime 2050 strategy, published in 2019. Maritime UK works with members and government partners to deliver its recommendations and monitor delivery. Practical delivery of the Regional Cluster Development Programme has been undertaken by Mersey Maritime, a full regional member of Maritime UK. Chris Shirling-Rooke, CEO, Maritime and Simon Eardley, Regional Cluster Development Manager, lead the work, supported by other team members. The Department for Transport committed to supporting an initial project in 2019 which was then extended for three years from 2021.

The report covers the period July 2022 to June 2023. It details the background and context for the programme; the activity and deliverables of the engagement activity; the work of the Maritime UK Regional Council; a summary of each cluster organisation around the country, both established and in development; an analysis of the economic impact of the maritime sector at a regional level and gives a forward look towards the wider and future priorities of the programme. Five case study examples, from Maritime UK Solent, Maritime UK South West, Mersey Maritime, the South East and the Northern Ireland Maritime & Offshore Network, give practical examples to demonstrate principles in action. The core emphasis of the work seeks to build on existing cluster success, identify new opportunities and the ties between government, industry, and academia at both a regional and national level.

Chris Shirling-Rooke, Chief Executive Officer, Maritime UK said:

“We are a proud island nation with a long and exceptional history. But our industry has never sat on its hands when faced with profound change and turbulence, be that from challenging economic times or the massive drive to deliver net zero and the decarbonisation of the maritime sector. The coastal regions and nations of the United Kingdom have a critical role to play in the future of the sector and the prosperity of the country. We know they make a substantial contribution to the regional economies in which they sit and that the maritime ecosystem that regional cluster organisations represent contain some of the most productive and innovative workers in the whole country. Since 2019, the programme activity outlined in this second Annual Report has sought to foster collaboration at a regional level with the primary purpose of encouraging the conditions necessary to stimulate jobs and growth. It is vitally important work in the areas that need it most.

“We are delighted to see the announcement from the Maritime Minister of an unprecedented boost in funding for our vital coastal communities in the form of a £1 million ‘Cluster Development Fund.’ We believe strongly that accelerating the development of our maritime clusters will support our coastal communities and help our maritime sector to deliver economic benefits both regionally and nationally. The backing of HM Government in this way is a tribute to the incredible work that our existing regional teams are engaged with and the opportunities this focus on regional growth can bring in all coastal areas to boost economic growth, skills, and jobs, in turn helping to ‘level-up’ the country. We look forward to working with our close colleagues in Government to drive this vitally important work forward in the coming months and years.”

“Maritime regional cluster organisations help increase the profile of their given region and provide a critical pathway of communication and intelligence to government and key industry stakeholders. This new report demonstrates the breadth of the engagement with regional cluster development and points to how our coastal communities are in a prime position to drive growth, decarbonise the industry, and support jobs and training.”

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