On 14 December, Bath residents and leading influencers from across the city gathered online for ‘Bath beyond 2020: Creating a resilient economy together’ – the launch event for a new report out from the University of Bath’s Institute for Policy Research (IPR) and The Good Economy.
The situation report is the result of a collaboration between the IPR and The Good Economy set in the context of the city in 2020 and in response to the pandemic and Brexit.
It comprises analysis from a series of interviews from across the local community, including large and small businesses – from manufacturing, engineering and hospitality to public and the social sector. Drawing on their reflections, it focuses on the economic hit COVID-19 has brought, and seeks to contribute to the debate about how anchor institutions, including the University, can help best promote inclusive and sustainable prosperity in the years ahead.
Co-author of the report and Director of Research and Policy at The Good Economy, Mark Hepworth, said: “Bath has entered a watershed. Now, for vision and direction, the city must go ‘back to the future’, return to its Aquae Sulis roots (the local economy in Roman times) and re-invent itself around healthcare and climate change innovations as drivers of community wealth building and sustainable economic development for the rest of this century.”
IPR Research Director and the report’s lead author, Dr Charlie Larkin, explains: “This situation report, which is the product of a new approach to knowledge co-production with industry, highlights the economic dislocation caused by COVID-19 and has thrown into high relief the underlying conditions of demographics, inequality and economic concentration that impede an inclusive and sustainable recovery.”
“The report indicates the necessity for anchor institutions, like the University of Bath, to work in concert to achieve goals for themselves and the wider community. I hope that this situation report triggers an active policy debate on the future of Bath, post-COVID and post-Brexit.”
Key reflections in the 52-page report include exploring how Bath’s leading public sector players, such as the University of Bath, could build on their already positive engagements with the city to do more in using their economic power and influence for wider local benefit.
The report also highlights the need to build a dynamic and resilient small business sector, including retaining graduates; to develop a holistic strategy to enable all young people and children living and working in the area to flourish; and emphasises the importance of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and climate change action as frameworks towards achieving more inclusive and sustainable prosperity.
Writing in the preface to the report, Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Bath, Professor Ian White, adds:
“The pandemic has created great challenges for the City, not only in terms of health, educational and wider social factors, but also for the economy. We recognise that it will be important for the University to respond thoughtfully to the recommendations within this report, recognising the duty we have as an anchor institution to play our full part in the future success of the city”.
"Looking ahead to a future beyond the pandemic, if Bath is to remain resilient in the face of the challenges ahead, I am convinced of the immensely positive contribution our University can make. We can act as a partner and catalyst for positive change through our research and innovation and through our talented staff, students and graduates, so many of whom develop a lasting affection for, and affiliation with, the City we share."