Freeport Playbook – an opportunity to create sustainable industries, stimulate innovation and deliver impact

As announced in the Chancellor Rishi Sunak 2021 budget, the UK will now have eight new Freeports. To support this key initiative, Connected Places Catapult is launching our Freeports Playbook, a first step in establishing the fundamentals of Freeport objectives, their global positioning, potential benefits and operational models.

In basic terms, Freeports are ‘Special Economic Zones’ – with beneficial tax, tariff and duties arrangements. These zones can include manufacturers, logistics hubs, office spaces and research organisations in the region – with the boundaries being more ‘virtual’ in nature.

Freeports have the potential to be powerful engines of regional growth, through attracting foreign direct investment and stimulating innovation and collaboration. The Government specification for Freeports includes requirements to work as an Innovation Hub for regional growth and support the transition to Net-Zero.

As the UK’s innovation organisation for transport and place, the Freeports vision is in strong alignment with Connected Places Catapult mission in ports and maritime, where we are committed to maximising the regional and national impact of the Innovation Hubs and initiatives at the heart of the Freeports vision. As a neutral convener we bring disparate stakeholders together, delivering solutions to validated challenges. We maximise the potential for innovators, stimulating investment and connecting supply with demand. We work across the full technology and business lifecycle, from strategic planning and technology road mapping to trials and establishing investment cases.

Connected Places Catapult supported several of the Freeport bids, bringing our impact focus – both nationally and regionally, which will be vital to realising the vision of Freeports. Through their Innovation Hub roles, Freeports could help communities to thrive and support the levelling up of UK regions to deliver:

  • New, high value jobs
  • Increased average wages
  • New training and upskilling opportunities
  • Enhanced physical and digital infrastructure
  • Increased foreign investment
  • Contribution to regional and national net zero targets

Henry Tse, Director of New Mobility Technologies, said “We are very excited to be launching the Freeport Playbook which outlines the different operational models for freeports and their potential alignment to the government sustainable economic growth aspirations. Here at the Catapult, we are very keen to support the UK Freeports in achieving their full economic, social, and environmental potential through the development and utilization of novel solutions and processes.”

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