Home Thought Leadership Lancashire can build a world-leading cluster of shale gas expertise

Lancashire can build a world-leading cluster of shale gas expertise

Thought leadership piece by Lee Petts, Lancashire For Shale.

“Lancashire: famous for its Golden Mile, cheese, and its place as the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. But it also sits at the heart of a cluster of aerospace manufacturing expertise that has grown to support BAE in the region and has the chance to repeat that with shale gas.

The aerospace sector contributes over £7 billion a year to the North West’s economy.

At the latest count, the 2014 Business Register Employment Survey (BRES) estimated that there were 13,200 jobs in the Lancashire-14 area classified directly to the aerospace industry, making it the largest manufacturing sector in the county.

Aerospace represented 15.6% of the total manufacturing workforce in the county or 2.1% of all employment in the Lancashire-14 area. In a wider context, its importance is reflected in the fact that Lancashire accounted for 14.6% of aerospace jobs in Great Britain.

This success shows what can happen when an industry is established in an area: new supply chains grow, creating opportunities for local businesses to participate. In turn, this creates new jobs and supports many more, and drives inward investment.

Industry clusters have existed for hundreds of years. Think the potteries in Staffordshire, Hollywood’s film industry and, more recently, Silicon Valley where today’s tech giants like Google, Facebook and Apple are all found.

There are lots of benefits to be gained by clustering. For instance, it helps to grow a talent pool that everyone can benefit from, SMEs can leverage economies of scale, and then there are the countless opportunities for businesses in a cluster to sell to one another.

Lancashire has an opportunity to now establish a new cluster to support the shale gas sector. Since it relocated to the county and commenced operations at its Preston New Road gas exploration site, Cuadrilla’s activities have already seen nearly £9m spent with Lancashire suppliers.

With three enterprise zones at Salmesbury and Warton (treated as one), Blackpool airport and the former ICI Hillhouse site, there’s a real chance that Lancashire could create one or more supply chain hubs that can serve the industry as it grows, possibly even attracting companies to relocate here.

But it needs someone to create that vision, and strong leadership in order to make it happen.”