MacKay Hannah

Understanding Freeports Across the UK: driving regional growth, investment and innovation

Thu 9th Dec 2021

SUPPORTERS All Supporters

OVERVIEW View Webinar Agenda

The UK government is committed to the creation of up to ten Freeports with eight already announced this year. The Scottish Government is also committed to green ports and has received nine notes of interest in this model. However, critics of such tax-benefitting and simplified customs areas argue that there is a danger of economic activity simply being displaced from elsewhere. The challenge therefore is twofold. First, where should remaining Freeport sites be located? Second, how do all Freeports deliver real growth, attract new investment and achieve genuine innovation.

This webinar explores the broader strategic purpose of Freeports. It explains their potential as catalysts of regional economic growth. Finally, it discusses lessons to be learned from successful Freeport proposals and more mature Freeport developments elsewhere.

As an island the UK is massively dependent upon its ports for more than 90% of its trade. While air and road have received substantial public investment over decades, ports and the maritime sector have not had the same policy and budget focus. Freeport proposals therefore represent a potential step change. Not just for ports and the maritime sector but also for the regional economies, businesses and local authority areas where they are located. With the right collaboration and insight, the potential for jobs, investment, growth and innovation is substantial.

So, what are they key factors in successfully developing Freeport status? What is needed to move on from flexible tax, planning, development and customs systems to a broader regional growth dynamic? How have Freeports worked elsewhere and what can be learned from their successes and mistakes? Who stands to benefit and how?

Tom White and Alison Young will consider the strategic purpose of Freeports in the UK. Ibrahim Mohamed will discuss driving trade, regional, economic and innovation value from a Freeport. A final speaker will reflect on the challenge of establishing and developing a Freeport. 


Key points


  • Understanding the strategic purpose of Freeports
  • Delivering trade, regional, economic and innovation value from a Freeport
  • Establishing and developing a Freeport
  • Regional growth, investment and innovation - finding value beyond port operations and tax and tariff zones
  • The importance of regional clusters and developing unique regional strengths
  • What does a successful Freeport look like?
  • Using a Freeport as a template for innovation with partners beyond core port activities
  • Core Freeport building blocks
  • Reflections on where to start

KEYNOTE SPEAKER View All Speakers

Richard Ballantyne

Chief Executive, British Ports Association

Tom White

Maritime and Ports Lead, Connected Places Catapult

Alison Young

Global and Investment Export Specialist, Connected Places Catapult

Ibrahim Mohamed

Director, Gateway Capital Investments Ltd; and Infrastructure Trade & Investment - Freeports Advisor

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There were so many excellent speakers. I found the speakers and content interesting, inspiring and motivating. There was a lot to take in that has left me with lots of thinking, lots of interesting links to follow up on and lots of useful reflections for my work and my organisation. It was a really good range of topics and very well chaired!

Ali Gornall, Big Noise Govanhill,
Delegate at Raising Young Scots Conference, November 2017

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