FEP announces six exciting new projects for Forest of Dean
The Forest Enterprise Partnership (FEP) held a Stakeholder Meeting on 25 March which represented a great leap forward for the organisation and the work that its various sub-groups have been doing over the last year.
They agreed six exciting new projects, as well as setting up a Community Interest Company (CIC) to give the FEP a legal identity as a non-for-profit organisation. A CIC enables it to apply for external funding in its own right. The FEP is now aiming to submit a signed CIC application to Companies House in April.
Inspiring the Forest (IF) This project is for a 3 year rotating programme of inspirational events celebrating the strength and diversity of District business and showcasing the skills and opportunities available for young people within these businesses and sectors. Businesses operating in these sectors would be invited to offer creative experiential content delivered through three separate project elements:
- What IF. A business delivers sessions in a school probably primary.
- Local IF Event: a day-long event hosted by each secondary school involving their local primary schools and wider school communities. The first is already being planned with 4/5 business sectors.
- District IF Festival: a day-long event targeting any student secondary, further education and university students and adults. Transport will be provided to a large-space venue. Space to be organised into all 10 key Forest business sectors.
Digital Connectivity Projects provide four distinct projects which aim to improve digital access and awareness across the Forest of Dean:
- How Fast, How Good launches in late April. It meets the need for an accurate picture of speed and coverage for data by asking residents and business in the District to report their broadband speeds. This will enable the efficient planning of projects to resolve connectivity issues and provide practical solutions. It will also understand users’ expectations to avoid ‘one person’s slow’ being ‘another person’s superfast in the Forest.
- Bridging the Gap . Not all premises in the Forest will benefit from the roll-out of Fastershire’s gigabit fibre project, and estimates show that some 2249 premises will be excluded. This is an awareness programme to promote the use of the various voucher schemes, explore options to deliver a variety of solutions for end users and to run a pilot scheme to enable access.
- Smart Rural Leadership. This promotes the Forest as a trailblazer in digital technology for rural areas. Whilst ‘Smart’ cities are increasingly well defined, ‘Smart’ rural areas are not. A clear case for fibre/5G based around smart rural has not yet been defined. The objectives of this project are focused on developing and sharing knowledge and raising the profile of the Forest of Dean as a place to test and trial technology sensitively and pragmatically. Research funding is needed promote the Forest as the rural area that is leading on the pragmatic applications of the smart economy.
- Tech Nations – gaining entry to the annual Tech Nations Report. Despite hosting GCHQ in Cheltenham, the Berkeley Cyber Centre, the Newent Community Schools partnership with GCHQ, locally-based GCHQ technology partners based in Gloucestershire, and world leading local manufacturers using digital technology, Gloucestershire is not in the annual Tech Nation Report. The objectives of this project are to establish how far the area might be from securing entry. The project would need the Forest to collaborate with Monmouthshire Council to take this work forward.
What is the Economic Case for a Forest Biosphere Reserve? is the Transport and Infrastructure sub-group’s project, which aims to maintain balance between the natural and built worlds. This project takes advantage of the Office for National Statistics Corporate Social Responsibility programme to create a data-based analytical economic model which can determine the advantages of UNESCO biosphere accreditation.
Commenting on the Inspiring the Forest initiatives, Chair of the IF Action Group Tracey Ashford said,
“The Inspiring the Forest project is the opportunity to celebrate the strength and diversity of businesses in the Forest and to showcase the skills and opportunities for young people within these businesses. We hope to build closer relationships between businesses and schools and colleges and in doing so, secure the workforce we need in the Forest both now and in the future”.
Digital Connectivity Sub-Group leader David Trevalyan was equally pleased with the announcements,
“Over the last 12 months the group has been hugely impressed by the work on digital technology and cyber issues that we have seen in schools and businesses across the Forest of Dean District. These four projects are designed to give us the information, infrastructure and strategic drivers necessary to help our area become a digital technology leader.”