Clive, who is the MP for Norwich South, sits on the parliamentary select committee for science and technology, so it seemed like an ample opportunity to ask him a few questions. Here we talk tech, business and how cities can retain top talent.
What are your thoughts on Norwich's blossoming status as tech city?
I think Norwich becoming a tech city is fantastic. One of the things I’m aware of as one of the MPs here, is that I’m about to go to Unilever and talk to the staff there who may potentially be losing their jobs. The factory has been there for over a century and we’re seeing a rapid change taking place in the kind of jobs that are in our city.
It’s critical that for the 21st century we have new jobs, new quality jobs that pay well and can actually support our local economy. At the moment we’re going through a transition where many people are concerned about what that will look like in the future. If we can become a tech hub here and have businesses and industry located in 21st-century technologies, then of course, I’m really happy about that.
Could we be doing more to keep business/tech talent in the city, rather than losing it to Cambridge or London?
I think there's lots more we can do. One of the problems at the moment for Norwich City council is its status. It’s a city council and I think it should be a unitary authority. That means it can have all the powers of both the county council and the city council which will enable it to put forward and drive a proper growth plan for the city. A sustainable growth plan for the city with proper resources.
We need to ensure we have all the things people need to work here, for example, the affordable homes that people need to work in the city. We need structured infrastructure that's going to work in terms of broadband, in terms of where people live, how they get to work, and a public transport network that actually works. These are the things that keep people in a city, these are the things which brings businesses to a city.
If businesses know that infrastructure is there and all the other components, such as available education so those people can come get the skills do those jobs. I think that's what our city council needs. It needs the powers to be able to do that. It needs more resources, and what we’re seeing now, I think, is that people are fed up with austerity and cuts. We need to invest in people, in infrastructure and in our future.
Small and independent businesses represent 99.9% of all UK businesses, but with almost half of those failing before their 5th year, is there more the government could be doing to assist?
Yes, there is. It is very easy to become political here but one of the things I do as an MP is I work very closely with organisations trying to get banks to work more fairly with small businesses. At the moment there are many small businesses, tens of thousands potentially, who have gone under in part because of the way banks have treated them.
One of the things I want and many people want to see, especially small businesses, is access to finance. Not just for start-ups but all the way through as they grow and develop as companies. If you don’t have that there then it is very difficult for those small and medium-sized businesses to grow and flourish, to employ more people and to make the investments that they want to ensure they remain competitive and have the productivity we need.
One of the things my party is talking about is having national and regional investments banks working alongside the banks. They can then be directed towards those areas of the economy you want to see flourish, like technology for example. If we did that, I believe we’d see more of the small organisations and businesses growing. They are the backbone of our economy and we want to make sure they are on a level playing field and have access to the funding and resources they really need.
Stay tuned for the Epos Now Vlog which documents the opening day. If you would like more information on all things tech in the region, check out Tech East who are the collective voice of the digital tech sector in the East of England.
Don't forget, Sync the City kicks off on the 23/11/17, a 54-hour startup challenge that brings together budding entrepreneurs with experienced business mentors and technology expertise.