Southampton Science Park was pleased to welcome the Rt Hon Caroline Nokes, member of parliament for Romsey and Southampton North, to its CEO Breakfast Club on 13 November 2020. The event was an important opportunity for leaders across the Science Park to discuss the important issues affecting their business with their MP.
Caroline began by outlining her thoughts on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on businesses across her constituency and throughout Hampshire. In what continues to be a fast-moving situation, she recognised the negative impact that the pandemic is having on unemployment and on the businesses that have not yet qualified for any government support, even though the constituency has benefited from a significant level of funding via the furlough scheme to date. Caroline went on to highlight the outstanding work that is being conducted locally to implement Kickstart and apprenticeship schemes.
Ms Nokes also spoke of barriers to entrepreneurship, stressing why a narrow national curriculum, a lack of confidence - particularly amongst women - and unequal access to funding are key issues to rectify. (It was noted that just one out of sixteen spinouts from the University of Southampton are led by women.)
In her role as Chair of the Women’s and Equalities Select Committee, Caroline is passionate about enhancing diversity in technology and commerce. She commented: “There’s still a massive gap between the number of girls studying science at GCSE and the number that go on to a forge a career in technology. It’s an ongoing conversation that’s been going on too long - we need to start seeing some change on this. Government has a key role to play in instilling self-belief in young people and in ensuring that capital financiers positively support female entrepreneurship. Business leaders can help by offering the benefit of their experience through mentoring.”
In questions from the audience, Brexit was an important topic with Ms Nokes fielding questions on the potential for a no-deal Brexit and arrangements for pan-European data sharing moving forward. The impacts of the government’s industrial strategy and approaches to ‘levelling-up’ the country from a socio-economic perspective were also discussed and on this, she underscored her support for Southampton Science Park and its community of businesses. “Throughout my twelve years as a Test Valley borough councillor, I witnessed the Science Park grow in size, in prestige and in renown in our area. I mentioned the Science Park in my maiden speech in Parliament in recognition of its role as a significant driver of the local economy,” she commented.
Closing the event, host Dr Robin Chave, CEO of Southampton Science Park, said: “I’d like to thank Caroline Nokes and all our business leaders who attended our virtual event today for what proved to be an extremely interesting, honest and diverse discussion that I’m confident was useful to us all. I am in no doubt that Caroline is a genuine advocate for our science and technology businesses, and I encourage all of our companies to engage with her on an ongoing basis, confident that their voice will be heard.”
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