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GFirst LEP

Neil Hopwood is Projects Manager at GFirst LEP – Gloucestershire’s Local Enterprise Partnership. He is part of the team tasked with delivering the Gloucestershire Growth Deal, a £100 million package of funding to support sustainable economic growth for Gloucestershire. Neil provides project management expertise to the LEP and is responsible for risk management, as well as performance management and delivery of Growth Deal projects.

“I joined the LEP in 2016 after over 25 years’ successfully running manufacturing operations, major projects and engineering functions,” Neil explained. “I realise this is a unique world, so I was looking for support around my Continuing Professional Development (CPD) – and this is when I found out about the IED. I have immediately benefitted from the IED’s CPD provision, having attending the excellent Developing Place Competitiveness workshop in May 2018, which supports my work around inward investment.”

GFirst LEP is targeting a number of districts for inward investment and particularly with a view towards key strategic sites, and Neil said the IED workshop had sharpened his awareness of what is needed to make the case for those areas. “In the context of Local Industrial Strategy there is a significant place thread running through everything we do, but listening to the case studies and talking to other delegates emphasised the importance of a compelling offer and a strong narrative to support investment,” he revealed. “The Highlands Life Sciences Hub was an example that really stood out for me. Overall, the trainer (Nigel Wilcock, IED Executive Director) was excellent, very engaging, and the pace and content was very good.”

The IED has an important role to play in helping members meet the challenges of Local Industrial Strategies, Neil continued: “We are all grappling with this issue – the scope, that it must be evidence-based and tied to the place, and that we have to be selective on what can be the USP of an area. If we can share knowledge and experience of how best to deliver economic growth in an area and make a contribution to UK plc, that can only be good for the IED, LEPs and the country as a whole. I made several new contacts at the Developing Place Competitiveness event who I have followed up with.”

The quality of engagement provided by the IED has greatly impressed Neil since he became a member. “We are all working in an environment where there is not necessarily an immediate opportunity for knowledge-sharing,” he said. “The IED provides that opportunity to share experiences with like-minded individuals and organisations, and ultimately to professionalise the trade through skills’ development. The IED fills a gap in the market in terms of CPD and networking and membership is sensibly priced.”