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15 April 2014, 13:22
The Minister for Portsmouth Michael Fallon has visited the city to launch a new plan to create thousands of jobs and boost growth in the marine and maritime industry in the Solent.
The plan has been put together by Rear Admiral Rob Stevens and was commissioned by Michael Fallon following BAE Systems announcement in November 2013 that it would cease ship-building in the Portsmouth Dockyard in 2014.
Rob Stevens and Michael Fallon have launched the report during a visit to Magma Structures, a rapidly growing composites manufacturing company in the marine sector.
The author of the new report has played a key role in identifying the opportunity for Sir Ben Ainslie to base his America's Cup team in the area.
Rear Admiral Stevens has spent the past three months collating evidence, gathering expert opinion and meeting with numerous interested parties. He identified the opportunity at an early stage in his research and put the Ben Ainslie team in touch with the Minister for Portsmouth, his government team and local leaders.
Michael Fallon and his team have had a number of meetings on the Ben Ainslie Racing proposal and will be meeting with Ben Ainslie soon. Officials from the Minister's department remain in regular contact with Ben Ainslie's team.
Rob Steven's report says:
"We have a huge opportunity to put the Solent on the global map as a centre of marine excellence - Sir Ben Ainslie's proposal to base his America's Cup challenge in our region.
"This initiative could deliver a major economic boost to the region, generating spin off technologies, public engagement and youthful interest in our sector. It could also be an iconic symbol of the Solent's recovery."
Michael Fallon said:
"Rob Steven's has made important connections that have helped to put this exciting opportunity on the horizon. We are in close contact Ben Ainslie's team, going through all the details and speedily assessing what can be done to support the project."
In total, Mr Stevens makes 36 recommendations and 15 prioritised funding proposals totalling £91 million, including:
- Improving Southampton, Portsmouth and Marchwood ports
- Boosting transport links between Portsmouth and Southampton
- Working to secure Sir Ben Ainslie's campaign to win the Americas cup for the Solent region.
- Improved research and development, including the creation of a new centre of excellence to develop and improve composite manufacturing techniques and win more business for the region.
Rob Stevens said:
"My report is designed to unify and enhance the many elements of marine excellence in the region, to embrace the new technologies and seize the opportunities they bring. My hope is that the measures, when implemented, will rekindle the pride, heritage and ambition of the region."
Michael Fallon said:
"The Solent is well placed to have a world beating marine and maritime industry. It has ports that lie just 20 miles from the world's busiest shipping route from Shanghai to Rotterdam - and a business base, skills, traditions research and educational strengths that are second to none.
"But it had no comprehensive plan to help secure the huge opportunities that exist - that is why I commissioned this work. Rob Stevens and the large number of people that have supported him have delivered an impressive piece of work which forms a strong basis for government, business and councils to deliver."
Ben Ainslie commented:
"Rob Stevens' report, commissioned by Michael Fallon, to help boost growth and jobs in the marine and maritime industries within the Solent area is welcomed. Rob has been instrumental in ensuring we have had a good dialogue with government and local leaders since announcing the intention to build a British America's Cup team last year.
"As we await The Protocol, the rules of the America's Cup, to be announced we are continuing to consider a range of options to where the team could be based."
The Government will consider the recommendations and funding proposals made in the report as part of its negotiations with the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership on a Growth Deal. It is committed to negotiating a Growth Deal with all 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) across the country. LEPs have the chance to bid for a share of the £2billion Local Growth Fund. Rob Steven's report is an annex to the Solent LEP's Strategic Economic Plan.