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Powering up the Western Gateway

Dave Tansley, UK vice chair at Deloitte, shares his insight on attending the Green Growth in the Western Gateway: A powerhouse conference in March 2022 and where he believes the opportunities and challenges lie for the future.

On 8 March, I was delighted to spend the day at ICC Wales, the venue for Western Gateway’s inaugural conference on Green Growth. Delegate, facilitator and sponsor, my roles on the day were varied and, in my view, it was a fantastic day. The agenda was filled with different plenary and panel sessions that tackled a range of interesting topics and presented views from leading experts from across the Western Gateway area and, most importantly, engaged the audience in the discussion.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to go to events such as these in person, and with nearly 300 delegates in attendance, it was exciting to see so many people coming together to talk about the future of the region. I, for one, enjoyed reconnecting with many people and making new connections, learning about how the region has the potential to become a green energy super-cluster as well as the importance of green innovation to the region, a topic close to my heart.

What is the Western Gateway?


If you’re not familiar with the Western Gateway, it is akin to the Midlands Engine or the Northern Powerhouse. It is literally a powerhouse for the central belt of South Wales and Western England, spanning from Swansea to Swindon. Formed in 2019, it’s a partnership made up of local authorities, combined authorities, city regions, local enterprise partnerships and governments - in Wales and Westminster - all working together for the good of the region.

Focus on green growth


The aim of the conference was to focus on how the Western Gateway area can create sustainable green growth, using local expertise and industry to develop new sources of green energy whilst creating new opportunities for local people. A powerhouse that, at the same time, will help to power up the UK’s transition to net zero, opening doors to international trade and better connecting communities. All this and levelling up districts on both sides of the Severn to make sure no one is left behind.

Levelling up


Most delegates, I’m sure, will have taken the opportunity to review the weighty Levelling Up white paper published by the UK government In February, which sets out a framework for change. The first keynote speech was given by Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, in a pre-recorded video on how the work to shape a road map to deliver that change now begins. Not forgetting the second keynote speaker, Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for the Economy at the Welsh Government, who delivered his speech in a live stream direct to the audience.

Discussions and deeper dives


The plenary and panel sessions all sparked interesting discussions – the sessions were scribed by students from Cardiff University’s Business School who we were pleased to invite along to support the Deloitte team working in the background, and to help put the event on record through their notes. Recording vox pops, taking photos, posting on social media, roving mic duty for the audience during Q&As, assistant Deloitte speakers with notetaking, the student delegation was a beehive of activity throughout the day.

The breakout sessions in the afternoon provided a platform for a deeper dive into various topics. Two of my colleagues and I facilitated three of the five breakout sessions that took place clean transport, innovation clusters and scaling innovation were our specialist subjects – leaving the hydrogen economy and fusion energy to other experts. The breakout sessions, each with a panel of experts, were really insightful. They gave the audience an opportunity to pose their burning questions to the panel and initiated healthy debates that covered plenty of ground.

For me, reporting back key points from the breakouts on stage alongside the other facilitators was a pivotal part of the conference. The topics discussed truly outlined the different ways in which the Western Gateway can build on its reputation and become a lightning rod for innovation in several areas that will give rise to green, economic growth.

The conversations have just started


All in all, the conference provided the opportunity for innovators, academics and leaders from across industry as well as the public sector to hear about and support the Western Gateway in developing its strategy to level up communities, deliver inclusive growth, and decarbonise our economy to reach net zero. A vision very much aligned to our own commitments as a firm.

It was a great day and the networking reception at the close was an opportunity to relax, process what I’d heard throughout the day and start the conversation about what lies ahead. For me, the real value comes through what happens next. How do we maintain the momentum? How do we continue the conversations? Should we be developing working groups focused on a single goal? We must continue the conversation and measure ourselves on progress to achieving green and inclusive growth.