Marches to be national leader in digital technology – report

October 13, 2020
Culture minister Caroline Dinenage MP

A new blueprint to make the Marches a national leader in digital technology for years to come has been launched today.
The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership – the business-led body which drives the region’s economic growth – says its new digital strategy will help the area develop an advanced hi-tech economy served by the highest quality digital infrastructure.
The LEP – which covers Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin – launched its Marches Digital Strategy as part of its regional Business Recovery Week today.

The report was welcomed by Digital and Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage MP who said the strategy aligned with the UK government’s ambitions for a “tech-powered post-COVID recovery.”

Developed in partnership with the region’s local authorities led by Shropshire Council, the strategy spells out how the Marches can:

  • Secure increased growth and productivity by developing high quality digital centres, seamless digital connections and innovation hotspots
  • Maximise digital opportunities for business with improved digital collaboration and digitally-enabled innovation
  • Develop a high-quality digitally-skilled workforce which helps all communities deepen their skills in new technology
  • Enhance digital connectivity across the region with world-class connectivity attracting new investment

Minister for Digital and Culture Caroline Dinenage MP said:

“I am delighted the Marches LEP’s strategy aligns with our ambitions for a tech-powered post-COVID recovery. The government supports tech hubs across the country with growth programmes for start ups and scale up tech businesses, by boosting people’s digital skills and investing in better broadband and 5G networks to power growth and innovation.”

Marches LEP chair Mandy Thorn said a high-quality digital infrastructure was essential to the region making a successful recovery from the Covid-19 lockdown.

“The coronavirus crisis brought into stark relief the need for all businesses to be digitally agile and for the everybody to have access to the highest-quality digital infrastructure, so that we could work effectively from home, stay in contact with each other, continue to trade and do business.

“We have made huge strides in the Marches with improving our connectivity in recent years but there is still more work to be done. This report paves the way for new 5G trials, improved 4G connections and ways of plugging both mobile and broadband not spots.

“We will continue to encourage commercial full fibre and 5G connectivity in key urban centres and growth locations, whilst also building on our rural full fibre footprint.

“And we want to make sure we consolidate our fixed and mobile network coverage with accessible public Wi-Fi hotspots.”

The new strategy also pledges to establish a series of digital innovation trials which support the needs of local industry, encourage standalone commercial investment in new technology and strengthen partnerships between universities, public sector and digital pioneers to drive innovation and research.

The report also calls for the appointment of a digital ‘tsar’ who is able to champion the Marches and further strengthen links between the LEP and business.

A pioneering 5G health project, part-funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, is already being trialled in parts of south Shropshire to examine how the emerging technology can be used to deliver health and social care services in rural areas. The project is valued at £5.8m, with £3.3m Grant funding coming from DCMS.

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The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership has now ceased trading and transferred all its functions to Shropshire Council working with Telford & Wrekin Council and Herefordshire Council, in line with the UK Government's plans for devolution.

The Marches LEP was established in 2011 and hands over an impressive legacy from its 13-year life. In that time the LEP invested over £196m in projects across the Marches, securing in excess of £100m of match funding and supported more than 66,000 business interactions.

The schemes supported have made tangible differences to local communities, increasing skills, creating jobs and improving the physical appearance of many towns.

We would like to thank all the LEP Board Members who have given their time freely over the life of the LEP, as well as all the staff who worked for the LEP over the years. We also want to thank our delivery partners, local education providers and local, regional and national stakeholders who helped us achieve so much.

The Marches Growth Hub will continue to support businesses and will be managed by Shropshire Council, supported by Telford and Wrekin and Herefordshire Councils. Each of the three Local Authorities will also continue to provide direct business support locally. Details of this support will be available through the Marches Growth Hub website and from the Local Authorities directly. Website: | email:

The Marches Careers Hub will continue to be delivered and will be managed by Shropshire Council, supported by Telford & Wrekin and Herefordshire Councils. Website: | email:

For any queries about Getting Building Fund (GBF), Local Growth Fund (LGF) and Marches Investment Fund (MIF) projects supported by the Marches LEP please contact:

For any finance queries please contact:

The solvent liquidation of the Marches LEP is being managed by the Evelyn Partners Limited. For any matter related to this please contact:

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