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May Business & Policy Briefing

Orwell Bridge – Long Term Impacts Task & Finish Group

Suffolk Chamber believes that the current policy vacuum regarding sub-regional road contingencies for when the Orwell Bridge is closed is unacceptable and unsustainable. Our working assumption is that businesses and residents are, by default, being expected by political and policy leaderships in the county and beyond to grin and bear the disruption and associated costs, recent minor adaptations and mitigations notwithstanding.

This is unacceptable and we are determined to ensure that the business voice becomes the catalyst for medium-term and long-term solutions to be placed at the top of the agenda from this year onwards, alongside our other key infrastructure asks, namely east:west rail, mobile, EV charging and utilities (especially water and electricity transmission)

The broad terms of reference for the Group are:

  • To gather information from relevant public sector bodies (eg Police, P&C Commissioner’s Office, Suffolk County Council, Ipswich Borough Council, Transport East etc.) as to their forecasts and plans for better managing the impacts of Orwell Bridge closures to ascertain coordinated lines of future enquiry – and to speed them up
  • To survey how businesses, especially in the ports, logistics and haulage sectors are having to adapt/reduce their business operations and growth plans (eg investment, employment, relocation, inward investment etc) to factor in continuing periodic disruptions due to Orwell Bridge closures and associated issues.

The evidence gathered from both the above will be used to launch a campaign with specific ambitions and asks.

Therefore, we are looking for private sector volunteers to join this group and work with Suffolk Chamber’s policy and public affairs directorate to lead the business case for a sub-regional roads system that is fit for purpose. Contact to find out more


Suffolk devolution consultation

A message from Suffolk County Council: “Would it be better if Suffolk received three-year of Government funding for transport and infrastructure, rather than annual amounts? Would that help plan long term projects? Suffolk businesses are being invited to share their views on these questions, and other proposals, as part of major consultation on a proposed devolution deal for the county. The consultation, which is open until 26 May, is seeking views on all elements of the in-principle deal between the Government and Suffolk County Council, including how best to use a £480 million investment fund over 30 years, where to focus adult education and the impact of multi-year transport funding. The survey only takes 10 minutes to complete, and is available at:


Skills for Life – How businesses can benefit from government training and employment schemes

The number of businesses considering government training and employment schemes is on the rise, as SME employers increasingly see the value in growing talent from within.

Recent data, from Skills for Life’s Skills Horizon 2024, identified a significant shift towards upskilling, with 71% of SMEs planning to invest in their current workforce in the year ahead. Schemes such as apprenticeships, Higher Technical Qualifications and Skills Bootcamps allow employers to upskill existing staff to meet business needs, and future proof their workforce.

The use of school leaver schemes, such as T Levels, also look to be on the rise for future talent pipeline building as 60% of SMEs said they were considering offering industry placements to T Level students in the year ahead. Employers cited the benefits of such technical education routes as an opportunity to shape young talent (55%) and address skills gaps within the business (50%).

Apprenticeships, Skills Bootcamps, Higher Technical Qualifications and T Levels all involve a level of upskilling, however each boasts their own unique advantages. Understanding the flexible options available is important for employers, and the Skills for Life campaign aims to help SMEs understand the schemes available to them.

To find out more about how skills can help your business and its employees reach their potential, visit the Finding Training and Employment Schemes for your Business website. #AD


HMP Hollesley Bay Celebrates Success of Inaugural HGV Course, Prepares for Future Training Initiatives

In May, HMP Hollesley Bay held its first HGV course. 7 candidates took part all of whom have now completed the classroom-based learning and are moving on to their Theory and Practical Lessons/Tests. The course was run by Road to Logistics, a not-for-profit organisation helping people into the Logistics sector. The course covered a range of topics aimed at supporting the learners into work as well as upskilling them for the job, such as employability skills, rules/regulations around driving and ‘First on Scene’ training. On Mondy 13th May we held an Awards and Employer Engagement event for the course with a number of Local and National Logistics companies in attendance. The course and event have proved to be a great success and we are looking forward to running another such course at a later date. If you wish to find out more about the course or future events please contact


Suffolk Chamber of Commerce QES Quarter 2

For the last 30 years, Suffolk Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey has become the most respected business survey in the county. Your Chamber uses the insights from real businesses like yours to inform and lobby legislators and policymakers both locally and in Westminster and Whitehall.

With a General Election imminent, this survey could be one of the last before a new administration is in place. We’d be grateful if you could complete it so that we are in as strong a position as possible to represent your views and trading realities.


Innovation and Technology in West Suffolk

 Our Summer Forum for West Suffolk Chamber members is focused on innovation and technology to help with your business needs for growth and the future. The forum will be an opportunity to discuss with West Suffolk Council, Suffolk County Council, Freeport East and Cambridge Ahead how they can support innovation in West Suffolk

The forum meeting is from 8:30am to 10:00am on Wednesday 26th June at the Epicentre in Haverhill and breakfast will be available. The forum is free for Suffolk Chamber members. Book your place here


 ‘Outcomes For All’ Bringing Commerce and Community Together

The Community Action Suffolk Annual Conference is on Wednesday 19th June 2024 from 9:30am- 4:30pm at Kesgrave Community and Conference Centre.

The conference will be a day packed with inspirational, engaging, and informative speakers and workshops. In breakout groups, there will be a range of topics covered in practical workshops that will be informative and constructive for all, including tax effective giving (and receiving), ProHelp and more. Key note speakers, and an exemplar presentation of volunteering at its best will inspire and energise everyone.

Lunch on the day will be served around a friendly Safari Networking session, facilitated by the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce events team.

Tickets for the conference can be booked here: CAS Annual Conference: ‘Outcomes For All’ Bringing Commerce and Community Together (


Nature recovery

Suffolk County Council is preparing a Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS), a new statutory plan to help enhance and restore nature across the county. For businesses this could involve:

  • Investing in nature recovery projects to offset damage that is hard to avoid
  • Improving biodiversity on property you own or manage
  • Arranging volunteer days to support nature and staff wellbeing

The county council would like to talk to Suffolk businesses about the strategy and are planning a meeting for business in June. If you would like to take part, please email and I will send you details once they are finalised.


The General Election, skills shortages, AI, Job Centres, Labour's proposals... what is your opinion?

As the UK heads towards a General Election, your business voice has never been more important. The British Chambers of Commerce Network campaigns - and wins - on behalf of UK businesses on the key issues that matter, but to do this, we need your opinion.

A 10-minute British Chambers of Commerce survey seeks your reaction to some of the significant topics for 2024: the General Election, skills shortages, workplace training, AI, the National Living Wage, and potential changes to workplace rights.

Your opinion directly shapes the national debate. British Chambers of Commerce surveys are used extensively by the UK government, Bank of England, and the media to understand what businesses think.

You can take part in the survey here


Meeting with shadow transport minister: a chance to show national importance of rail project

The longstanding campaign to secure much-needed rail upgrades at Ely and Haughley Junctions is about to receive a boost as Suffolk campaigners prepare to put their case to Louise Haigh MP, the shadow Secretary of State for Transport. Read the full article here


King’s Award for Enterprise

 The King’s Awards for Enterprise are for outstanding achievement by UK businesses in the categories of:

  • innovation
  • international trade
  • sustainable development
  • promoting opportunity through social mobility

This year Frugalpac, Muntons, Burland Technology Solutions, Broadwater Mouldings and OCO Technology are the Suffolk companies that have won an award and applications for an award in 2025 are now open

Companies that have received the award have reported benefiting from:

  • worldwide recognition
  • increased commercial value
  • greater press coverage
  • a boost to staff morale


Flexible AI Upskilling Fund pilot: open for applications

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) recently announced a £7.4 million pilot scheme to subsidise the cost of AI skills training for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Professional Business Services (PBS) sector. £6.4 million of grant funding is available. 

Through this pilot programme, eligible business can apply for funding for up to 50% of the cost of AI skills training. This refers to training which supports employees to develop their technical skills and/or understanding of AI to be able to develop, deploy, or use AI in their role.

The flexible AI upskilling fund pilot aims to increase AI adoption and productivity by incentivising greater employer-led investment in skills and training. Evidence shows that a lack of AI skills in businesses is hindering AI adoption, in part due to low investment in AI upskilling in UK businesses, particularly in smaller companies.

Funding will be allocated through a competitive application exercise running until 31 May 2024. Depending on demand, a second competitive application exercise may be run later in the year. 

Funding is for the procurement of AI skills training only, and not for the cost of: 

  • Purchasing AI technologies
  • Business advice and consulting
  • Recruitment activity
  • Salaries, including work placement or internship salaries
  • Capital expenditure

For full eligibility criteria and information of how to submit an expression of interest click here.


Agritech and Food Tech Innovation

 Two new Innovate UK grant funding competitions for the East of England have been launched:

  1. New Innovators: Ideal for early-stage micro and small businesses. Apply for £25,000 to £50,000 to commercialise your innovative concept.
  2. Collaborative R&D Projects: Collaborate with others to tackle bigger challenges. Apply for £150,000 to £300,000 to advance your collaborative research and development project.

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Suffolk Chamber

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