Promoting Dorset as a “coastal city region” could be among the keys to doubling the size of the county’s economy and creating 80,000 jobs.

That was among the messages to a conference which heard that the government needed to know Dorset was an ambitious county.

The Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) annual conference also heard that aquaculture – the farming of fish and other aquatic life – was a key area for expansion, alongside high-tech industries, creative technologies and agricultural tech.

The conference was updated on the LEP’s local industrial strategy, which aims to unlock the county’s economic potential and attract government grant money.

Jim Stewart, chair of Dorset LEP, said: “If we want government to invest in Dorset, they have to know that we are an ambitious county.

“We have an aim over the next 20 years to double the size of the economy, taking us up to £36billion in terms of productivity and output and creating 80,000 jobs.

“We want a thriving local economy that is sustainable, innovative and inclusive.”

Discussions with business had highlighted a series of themes to address including:

Ageing populations

Recruitment and retention

Housing affordability

Work-life balance

The Dorset ‘brand’

Digital and creative industries


The promotion of the area as a ‘coastal city region’.

Nigel Jump, professor of regional economic development at Bournemouth University, identified three areas to work on – promoting Dorset as a ‘coastal city region’; improving connectivity in transport, digital capability and infrastructure; and social and environmental ‘fusion’ to link growth to social wellbeing.

The conference, at Bournemouth University, saw the launch of Dorset’s ‘high potential opportunity’ scheme for aquaculture, including fish farming and processing.

Rob Emony, partnership manager from the Department for International Trade, and John Sutcliffe, director of business development for Atlas Elektronik UK, told delegates Dorset is a unique location nationwide for aquaculture.

Other speakers included Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra chief executive, Dougie Scarfe, who outlined progress on the Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole Cultural Enquiry; the new leader of Dorset Council, Cllr Spencer Flower; and BCP council chief executive Graham Farrant.

LEP director Lorna Carver led the conference and hosted a voting session posing questions on how to boost Dorset’s economy.

Delegates identified transport and digital infrastructure, recruitment of skilled workers and housing as key issues.

They concluded that high tech industries, creative technologies, and agri-tech and aquaculture were the sectors with the greatest potential in the next 20 years.