The starting gun has been fired by an ambitious new collaboration between Barrow, South Lakeland and Lancaster city councils to boost the Morecambe Bay region’s £25 billion economy.

And one of the key figures behind the Lancaster and South Cumbria Economic Region has revealed that it could develop a bid for a Growth deal from the Government to help fuel efforts to achieve “sustainable and inclusive economic growth”.

Business leaders from across the Morecambe Bay region gathered at Lancaster University’s Business Management School on Friday for the launch of a new brochure outlining the region’s key assets and opportunities to boost the economy.

Leaders and chief executives from the three councils spoke of their ambition to see businesses grow and for that wealth to trickle down to everyone in their communities.

The opportunities have been outlined in the glossy Lancaster and South Cumbria Economic Region prospectus, which outlines the region’s assets in advanced manufacturing, tourism, health, energy and education. It also includes opportunities to boost skills, housing, and industrial development.

One key figure, Giles Archibald, leader of South Lakeland District Council (SLDC) said that a Growth Deal bid – which could amount to hundreds of millions of pounds worth of Government funding – was an ambition for the partnership.

The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal – which aims to transform the economies either side of the England-Scotland border – received £345 million worth of funding from both the UK and Scottish governments earlier this year.

While he, and his counterparts were keen to stress it was still early days for the Lancaster and South Cumbria Economic Region collaboration, a Growth Deal or other streams of Government funding were on the partnership’s radar.

“I think a Growth Deal is an ambition, yes,” he told The Mail.

“If it makes sense, then absolutely. This is not solely about a deal, or growth deal, however. It is about three districts collaborating together to provide benefit to residents, visitors and the economy. 

“But if one of the strands of activity is developing a Growth Deal, which is attractive to Government, then we will definitely do that. We have already received positive indications from Government that we should be getting on with collaborating together, and if a Growth Deal emerges from that, we should present it.”

Coun Archibald had already told the event that he was planning to get together with his counterparts “see how we can attract money”.

“Working together we can generate increased opportunities for economic success,” he said.

“We have fabulous business, world-class innovation. We’re leaders in energy, nuclear in particular, health, engineering, subsea technology, LEDs.

“The quality of life is terrific – this really is a fantastic place to live. But there is a social aspect too.”

SLDC’s chief executive, Lawrence Conway, told delegates that ensuring all communities shared in the region’s prosperity was a key part of the collaboration.

“We want to create and environment for people to thrive,” added.

Derek Brook, chair of the executive committee at Barrow Borough Council, said the new collaboration “reaffirms our commitment to the private sector”.

“There is a lot of stuff going on and we need to take the message to the rest across the country,” he said.

“But we can’t do this in isolation.”

Kieran Keane, chief executive of Lancaster City Council, said Eden Project North would be “transformational” for the whole region and that opportunities presented by The Bay Gateway road link and Bailrigg Garden Village could also have a significant impact.

“The multiplier effect of working together could be quite transformational,” he added.

While supportive of the concept of the collaboration and its ambitions, business leaders said they were left wanting more detail on the next steps.

“One thing I’m slightly concerned about is that if we’re going to champion and support this, what are we championing and supporting?” asked chief executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, Rob Johnston.

“Is it about place and location or is it about indigenous growth within the area.”

Barry Leahey MBE, managing director of Playdale Playgrounds, added: “I want to know more about what the business opportunity is. I was hoping to see more about how the initiative will support us – and not how we can support the initiative. I think there needs to be some detailed background work done before they move to next steps.”

Jayne Moorby, marketing manager at LED manufacturer Oxley Group said it was “vitally important” for the region to come together.

“We have got world-class businesses here, but we clearly have a big skills challenge and we need to do is work together to address that,” she said.

“We’ve also been in the community for 77 years and inclusivity and sustainability are really important to us, so it was good to hear those messages coming out. The challenge is what happens next.”

The event also heard from Erica Lewis, leader of Lancaster City Council and Sam Plumb, executive director of Barrow Borough Council – both new in their roles.

While, the focus of the event was on grasping economic opportunities, speakers repeatedly denied the collaboration was a precursor to creating a new authority.

“This is not the creation of another tier of Government,” said Mr Conway, when Furness College principal Andrew Wren raised the issue of a unitary authority for Cumbria.

“We need to make the most of what we’ve got.”