The annual Gatwick Diamond Economic Growth Forum, which this year takes place at the Arora Hotel in Crawley on June 9, brings public and private sector together to discuss the opportunities and obstacles for our regional economy.
For 2016, the theme is the digital economy, so as well as taking a look at the airport and how its plans could provide greater economic growth across the Gatwick Diamond, and hearing from important investors and employers like Stewart Wingate, CEO of Gatwick Airport and Surinder Arora, CEO of Arora Group about what they are investing in and why, this year’s Forum will spend some time considering our digital sector, and how it can grow further, providing more jobs, and generating more local economic value.
It is no longer accurate to talk about a digital sector alone. In the Gatwick Diamond new digital trends such as the internet of things, cloud computing, mobile web services, smart grids, and social media, are radically changing the business landscape, reshaping the nature of work, the boundaries of enterprises and the responsibilities of business leaders from the largest of organisations to the smallest.
These trends enable more than just technological innovation. They spur innovation in business models, business networking and the transfer of knowledge and access to international markets. The strongest sectors in the Gatwick Diamond – advanced manufacturing and engineering; medical devices and health technologies; and professional and business services – are already taking advantage of the clear link between market competitiveness and the uptake and application of digital technology in the workplace. Conversely, a lack of digital investment and infrastructure can place companies at a competitive disadvantage. We need to benchmark our own infrastructure which is woefully inadequate still in many parts of the Gatwick Diamond, particularly in industrial estates and outside of towns. How do we achieve adequate digital investment into our infrastructure to enable our businesses to grow?
The event will also look at digital skills and the talent pool discussing how the supply of digital skills could meet the demands of the labour market.
The shortage in digital skills represents a key bottleneck for industry. There is an increasing range of activities and occupations where digital skills are needed but supply is not adequate. There is a lack of awareness of career opportunities within the digital sector, sometimes reflecting skill and gender stereotypes around the types of roles that exist. And there are challenges in matching the speed of change in the education sector, to the speed of demand, and the rapidly changing skill sets needs in the economy and society.
The event attracts almost 200 delegates each year. They are a mix of leaders from significant local employers, investors, local authorities and more. It’s this mix that gives the event its power, as business leaders talk directly to local authority leaders about how we can make growth happen faster.
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A rich mix
Delegates at the Gatwick Diamond Economic Growth Forum are a real mix of the business and economic development community. Last year around 200 people attended from organisations including American Express, Balfour Beatty, Canon UK, Chemigraphic, DMH Stallard, East Surrey College, Gatwick Airport, Iceni Projects, Jones Lang Lasalle, KPMG, Liberty Property Trust, Mayo Wynne Baxter, NatWest, Optima Systems, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Red River Software, Southern Housing Group, Transvalair UK, University of Brighton, Valad, and Whiston Solutions, as well as the Coast to Capital LEP and all seven of the local district and county councils.