The Global Gateways Federation was launched in November 2013 and has evolved as the debate on the North opened up with the Northern Powerhouse to focus sustainable communities; capacity building; global networking and trade.


The GGF started out as a focus on closing the UKs North South divide through capacity building, enterprise, opportunity and skills across the North of England – starting with the Humber Mersey trade corridor.

There was considerable effort to build from history and a number of significant ideas and initiatives across Public and Private sectors. The East West corridor is not a new concept. Back in the 19th century, millions of transmigrants from Europe moved from the Humber to Liverpool in search of freedom and opportunity here in the UK or across the globe.

Fast forward to the noughties and Will Alsop developed the idea of the Super City from Liverpool to Hull then, a flurry of policy documents were triggered by John Prescott’s Northern Gateway with a focus on Liverpool to the North East. Now, with Lord Heseltine’s No Stone Unturned Report, work on reinvigorating the big cities is firmly back on the agenda. Elsewhere, in his introduction to a Core Cities Report, Lord Heseltine emphasises that “this is not about one party or another: it is an opportunity to build on all our assets and to unleash the initiative and strength of our people.” [1]

Following the Scotland devolution referendum and prior to the UK Election (May, 2015) the North South divide became hot news. This has continued with an emphasis on governance and boundaries between Core Cities; Local Councils; Combined Authorities; LEPs and other groupings. The GGF does not have the resources to enter this debate and so a more limited focus on sustainable communities, trade and global trading networks has emerged.

The GGF agenda

The GGF links with all the great cities and towns that once were motors of Britains industrial revolution and which now need to re-discover that innovative zeal and drive to be world beaters so attractive to global investors and vital to creating the jobs that will give purpose and spending power to our Northern communities.

Global Gateways appeals to all parties and stakeholders as they strive to create the framework and explore synergies between a range of projects in the pipeline or under way. For example, how best to link the Atlantic Gateway initiative with the push to make the Humber the UKs Energy Region.

Global Gateways is compatible with and supportive of the Northern Powerhouse; a transformational project for the North; a forum for debate on the key issues, challenges and opportunities; and a catalyst for action to make a difference. The agenda starts with business and job creation and moves through the enabling themes that need to be addressed and encouraged:

  • Know how, employability, skills and jobs: With significant levels of unemployment and underemployment job creation is key and skills and know how will make them sustainable.
  • Business networks and market access: Multi-tier supply chains dependent on SMEs characterise most business sectors and Global Gateways seeks to create a viable eco-system of SMEs as well as global players.
  • Connectivity: Digital convergence across all sectors is creating whole new industrial sectors and Northern Gateways is alive to the cross sector dynamic of the new rocket science.
  • Resources: From finance to services and a business friendly environment, Northern Gateways has to be a catalyst for entrepreneurship, business creation and growth.
  • Energy:  There is no single energy source and Northern Gateways seeks to focus an energy mix that responds to current and emerging demand.
  • Infrastructure: Multi-modal capacity is a combination of investment in fresh capacity and timely upgrades. We have the ports and emerging global trade flows can drive significant increases in throughput IF capacity can be delivered to meet demand.

It is not enough to consider re-balancing the economy as a matter of shifting resources from the Public to the Private sector; we need to explore the need to re-balance the economy in geographical terms. A number of Reports highlight the  long term underperformance of the Northern economy when compared with the more prosperous regions in the South. On a per capita basis, Gross Value Added (GVA) in the North is 80% of the South East. This emphasis on the North is a sound investment decision and not just throwing money after bad – as some recent commentators suggest.

These days the context has changed as world trade flows are being re-configured around:

  • Geographical shifts from Panama Canal expansion
  • Urbanisation
  • Digital transformation and connectivity across all sectors
  • Additive manufacturing

Shifting the agenda

In recent years, economic thinking was led by talk of BRICs; MINTs; CIVETs and other National markets and their drive to sit at the top table. Elsewhere, in the mature economies and the European Union austerity has dominated the debate.

The GGF recognises the need to grow a sustainable economy and therefore has to be a focus on capacity building; sustainable communities; value addition and growing overseas trade. This against a backdrop of the UK exporting more to Sweden than the BRICs combined and Belgium exporting more to India than the UK.

This is not a UK centric approach. There is considerable merit in exploring common purpose across like-minded Regions or, trade corridors.

In the UK this is about economic development, ideas, innovation, initiative and market access not just core cities, governance, and boundaries.

And the Global Gateways Federation is emerging as a viable platform to support common purpose beyond a narrow National agenda to sustainable communities and trade corridors across the globe.

The Global Gateways Federation focus

This changes key assumptions for a range of Business Plans and whole industry sectors. Liverpool becomes a viable option and Peel Ports investment in additional container capacity responds. Then there is the huge increase in renewable feedstocks for power stations imported from overseas and there is another justification for investment. Add to this the need to reduce the carbon footprint with near or local sourcing and “switching” models (southern ports to northern ports) to optimise a whole range of supply chains makes sense.  For example,

  • Over 90 per cent of containers enter the UK via the Southern ports.
  • Over 50 per cent of the UKs population is closer to the East West corridor.
  • Over 50 per cent of the demand for this cargo resides in the North.

The North is a viable business investment decision. Global Gateways re-visits the idea of a focus on better, more cost-effective and faster connectivity across the East West corridor traced by but not confined to the M62 (or E20) motorway. For example, there is much more that can be done with a canal system that does connect across the same corridor. Currently, the Manchester Ship Canal is operating at around 11 per cent capacity and, when we consider how Li & Fung used container vessels from Asia as a slow moving warehouse with items like Levi Jeans there is scope to re-visit canals and work the same approach.

Global Gateways means a market of more than 35 million people within a three hour drive. This is a multi-modal proposition with a benefits case generating significant triple bottom line impacts:

  • Economic: In times of austerity, we need to build the case for investment beyond the South East; demonstrate how building connectivity and capacity can optimise costs and maximise opportunities for second tier cities and emergent City Regions. We learn from trade corridors across the globe.
  • Environmental: A re-balancing of the economy will reduce the UKs carbon footprint and improve the living environment significantly.
  • Social: SROI (Social Return on Investment) is a principles-based method for measuring extra-financial value (i.e., environmental and social value not currently reflected in conventional financial accounts) relative to resources invested. It can be used by any entity to evaluate impact on stakeholders, identify ways to improve performance, and enhance the performance of investments. While in financial management the term ROI refers to a single ratio, SROI analysis refers not to one single ratio but more to a way of reporting on value creation. It bases the assessment of value in part on the perception and experience of stakeholders, finds indicators of what has changed and tells the story of this change and, where possible, uses monetary values for these indicators. It is an emerging management discipline: a skill set for the measurement and communication of non-financial value.

The case for Global Gateways is not prompted by HS2 and, we firmly reject any notion of this being an either / or proposition. This is a both / and approach that sees the increase in capacity of both initiatives as complimentary and widely beneficial.

The Core Cities Group have done some excellent work on England’s eight core cities (Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield) benchmarked against core cities across the EU. Here, we build on this work to explore connectivity and synergies within the Northern Gateways trade corridor and set this against International comparisons; trade corridors in China; India; Africa and elsewhere. We re-visit the E20 initiative – exploring the corridor of opportunity identified by the United Nations as stretching from Shannon, Ireland to St Petersburg and passing through the M62. There are 127 million people living along this route.

Our focus is on the East West corridor and, using a clear logistics and supply chain approach, we see Global Gateways as being a market driven proposition; an intrinsic part of the transformation of many supply chains that span the globe. At this stage we are talking ideas but now is the time to work a fully costed model and move on a series of compelling business propositions prompted by the Northern Gateways agenda.

[1]. Keys to the City: Unlocking Urban Economies Through Devolution (Core Cities, 2012).




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We must all obey the great law of change. It is the most powerful law of nature.
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