International University-led ‘think-tank’ reflects on the Northern Powerhouse

Chester Forum VII at MBNA
Chester Forum VII at MBNA

Strengthening Innovation in Business and Science, building the local knowledge base and enhancing skills development among 18 to 25-year-olds are vital to the long-term future and sustainability of the region and were the critical key factors that emerged from this year’s Chester Forum.

The Forum, organised by the University of Chester, is in its seventh year and is a gathering of key decision makers, international and regional stakeholders and academics, who look at key aspects of the regional economy and society.

The invitation-only annual event entitled; The Northern Powerhouse and Developing World-Class Competitiveness, hosted high-profile academics and senior management figures and representatives from public and private sector organisations in the UK and from across the world, including China, Germany, the Netherlands, Nigeria and the United States.

Guests and speakers took the opportunity to reflect on the Northern Powerhouse being turned from a political concept into economic reality and what that means for Cheshire, Warrington and the wider region over the next decade.

Professor Phil Harris, Executive Director of the University’s Business Research Institute (BRI), said: “We had an excellent Forum – our best yet. As you’d expect with such experienced speakers and guests, we were able to consider in depth the issues and trends from Europe and the US ahead of the referendum and the presidential elections.

“Many of us are trying to ensure that our region is leading change and development rather than having it forced on us. This means ensuring our young people, from school level onwards are developed to be adaptable and have a strong science, practice and critical reasoning base, so that we continue to be amongst the best and can develop and sustain new businesses and society.”

He commented on skills shortages in the region, adding: “We must be able to retain and develop technical and scientific skills from secondary school upwards and this will need major support from industry and educationalists to for us to ensure this happens.”

The Forum, held at MBNA’s headquarters at Chester Business Park, was organised by the Business Research Institute in partnership with the University’s International Centre for Corporate Public Affairs Research, and the Faculties of Business and Management and Science and Engineering. MBNA is the event’s main sponsor.

Director of Corporate Affairs, Mark Elliott, said: “MBNA was privileged again to host this prestigious conference focussed on building the fabric of our region. We at MBNA and Bank of America Merrill Lynch will continue to play our part in promoting the benefits of Cheshire as a great place to do business.”

Speakers included Jim Hancock, award-winning political journalist and broadcaster, who spoke at the dinner on the referendum and how the core issues were slowly coming out about the benefits and negatives of staying or leaving the EU. He commented that turnout would be critical factor.

Professor John Mahon from the University of Maine gave an insightful talk on the US Presidential Candidates and said: “It had been one of the most divisive campaigns in US history, with the Republican Party very split on migration and transparency issues.”

Key issues coming up in the US were identified as immigrant policy, economy and security, with female and ethnic voting being critical.


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