15 March 2011
Following the announcement of Pfizer in February that it will exit its research and development facility at Sandwich, in East Kent, by the end of 2012, the Sandwich Economic Development Task Force today delivered its initial 30 day report.
The report, requested by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Minister of State for Universities and Science, makes recommendations which will stimulate business growth and employment in East Kent, including in Sandwich.
The opportunities of transition
The Sandwich Economic Task Force has identified five phases of action, moving from an immediate focus on preserving jobs and activity on the site through to the longer term delivery of wider opportunities for East Kent:
· Phase 1: Pfizer’s efforts to attract contract research organisations (CROs) to the site will hopefully result in the transfer of assets and staff. Pfizer is currently in detailed and commercial in confidence negotiations with a number of CROs, which could provide a positive basis around which further economic activity and job opportunities can be generated,
· Phase 2: Building on a CRO core, further opportunities to attract venture capital investment in new business start-ups,
· Phase 3: Over the medium term, a range of options for additional R&D and other high-tech activity (for example in food sciences, aviation and environmental technology) at Sandwich, Manston and the East Kent Assisted Area,
· Phase 4: Looking beyond Pfizer’s exit in 2012, consideration of longer term ownership and management options for the future of the site and links with neighbouring locations to provide a core of other high-value activity,
· Phase 5: Delivery of a longer term strategy for the future of East Kent.
Solutions and recommendation
The task force must now maintain momentum and is focusing activity in three main areas.
Firstly, action must be taken quickly to support the staff, contractors and communities directly affected by Pfizer’s exit.
Secondly, we recommend that Government designates the Sandwich, Manston and key sites within the East Kent Assisted Area as a Research, Innovation and Technology Zone (RITZ).
Thirdly, we need these incentives to be supplemented by investment in critical infrastructure, jobs and skills to support substantial economic growth. We therefore recommend the creation of an East Kent Recovery and Growth Package, to add value to the RITZ, building on Assisted Area status.
In particular, the task force will:
· Complete work to understand the impacts of Pfizer’s exit and wider economic change in East Kent, incorporating the outcomes in our next report to Government,
· Establish a Skills and Employment Sub-Group to align national, local and European programmes and funds and investigate the potential for additional resources. The sub-group will hold its first meeting on 17 March,
· Co-ordinate the contribution of the higher education sector to support the retention and expansion of the East Kent knowledge base,
· Build on the current work between Locate in Kent and Pfizer to co-ordinate a marketing and inward investment strategy for the area, establishing a closer understanding of the product and its unique selling points,
· Investigate the full costs and benefits of the proposed Research, Innovation and Technology Zone,
· Develop an integrated approach to the wider economic growth of East Kent, to support the Recovery and Growth Package, building on the work achieved to date in advancing proposals for significant transport improvements focused on the enhancement of high speed rail.
MP for South Thanet Laura Sandys said:
“The publication of the task force report - just 30 days after Pfizer’s announced exit - is an ambitious and necessary step following Pfizer’s withdrawal from an area which already has a fragile economy. At the heart of the report are recommendations for finding ways that staff and the wider community, affected are supported.
“Having learnt from examples of best practice from other companies’ withdrawals, the task force believes that the designation of Sandwich, Manston and key sites within East Kent as a Research, Innovation and Technology Zone could help stabilise the site and create new employment opportunities. This aspiring proposition could see Sandwich and East Kent building on its existing skills base and leading the way in global enterprise, science and technology.
“To realise this vision, Government must sustain its momentum. It could consider offering economic incentives to businesses relocating to the site and might also acknowledge that improving transport links to Thanet and Deal would make East Kent far more attractive to investors. Along with my colleagues on the Taskforce and local East Kent MPs, I will work tirelessly to attract new businesses to the site and support existing Pfizer staff with any business start up ideas they might have.”
The above is a copy of email about update of Pfizer sent out by the MP Laura Sandys.