An innovative conference to look at ways to drive growth across the City Region has been hailed a great success.

The innaugural ‘Prosperity through Innovation’ event was organised by the Coastal West Sussex Partnership, in collaboration with Willmott Dixon and the Greater Brighton Economic Board, at Ricardo’s impressive building in Shoreham.

Attended by more than 90 leaders from across the public and business sectors in Sussex, the conference was opened by Coastal West Sussex Partnership Chairman Henry Powell, who explained: “Our job at the partnership is to champion economic growth in the region. We’re delighted that we have so many senior people in this room, from council chief executives to directors of private companies – by working together we can ensure a better future for all.”

A range of speakers gave overviews of the challenges faced by Sussex’s coastal region and the UK as a whole – from housing, to digital connectivity, to construction – and offered a glimpse into the innovative approaches being taken to promote economic success.

Lucy Greenwood from Savills outlined the challenges faced by the UK housing market, explaining that it is under pressure from Brexit concerns and underlying affordability issues in the south east. As a result, the market is slowing down with new buyer enquiries decreasing and transactions falling.

The Government-backed scheme Help to Buy has only been extended to 2023 and will be restricted to first time buyers from 2021. A post-Brexit release of pent-up demand is expected, with a forecast of 3% growth, however this is likely to be combined with a rise in interest rates.

CityFibre’s Martin Kemp explained the company’s mission to transform a country that was falling “embarrassingly behind”. Founded in 2011, CityFibre is the UK’s only builder of advanced intelligence full-fibre networks, and it looking to invest £80m to £100m in West Sussex.

Martin claimed that full fibre investment is critical to the UK, which lags behind its European counterparts – only 4% of UK premises are within reach of full fibre today, compared to 80% in Spain.

Laurence Wright, Head of Innovation at Willmott Dixon, presented ‘Aligned Productivity Scoring’. This recently-launched procedure has been developed by the contractor with the aim of encouraging everyone involved in a project to use their creativity to improve efficiency.

Laurence spoke passionately about the need to change the culture of the construction industry to be more collaborative and attract the younger generation to the industry by improving work-life balance.

David Joy from London and Continental Railways presented some of the large scale projects the Government-owned company had worked on, including Kings Cross, a great example of a joint venture with the private sector. The company is currently working in collaboration with Worthing Borough Council on Union Place and is open to more opportunities in the region.

Councillor Garry Wall, Leader of Mid Sussex and Chair of Greater Brighton Economic Board, pictured right, closed the conference and called for greater collaboration in the region.

Cllr Wall said: “For too long this region has suffered from a lack of government investment. We are trying to grow an economy with an infrastructure that is woefully out of date. We need local businesses to come together to campaign for greater investment.”

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