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Global Estuary

24th January 2022

Last week I had two brilliant meetings that were about building relationships and looking outward at international markets and collaborations.

Meeting with the Japanese Local Government Centre

Firstly, I was delighted to meet with wonderful colleagues at the Japanese Local Government Centre. We had a really productive discussion about inward investment and the myriad of opportunities in and across the Thames Estuary, the UK’s best and most exciting growth prospect.

Our kind hosts from Japanese Local Government Centre invited a UK representative from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. This was very exciting for us as this person’s role is to find investment opportunities for Japanese investors and a number of opportunities in the Estuary were of interest.

We also discussed the Toyota Ecotown and its relationship to hydrogen energy, and our plans for hydrogen in the Estuary that will play a key role in the UK’s ambitions.

Photo from meeting with Japan Local Government Centre. Kate Willard OBE, Estuary Envoy explaining to delegates howthe Thames Estuary Growth Board works

I have a dual role as Envoy and Chair of the Thames Estuary Growth Board. As Chair I am responsible for leading the Growth Board to make sure we deliver this exciting growth potential. As Envoy I champion the region and build relationships with decision makers everywhere, from the halls of Westminster to those across the country and internationally.

This meeting with the Japanese Local Government Centre fits in with championing the opportunities in the Estuary and beginning conversations about inward investment. I was fortunate to be joined by my colleagues Ken Dytor, Board Lead for Inward Investment and Randal Smith, Executive Director, both of whom have already built successful relationships with governmental organisations and businesses in the beautiful country of Japan.

Thames Freeport: supporting international trade

My second highlight meeting this week was with our counterparts at the Thames Freeport. As Thames Freeport Chair, Rt Hon Ruth Kelly, noted there are “many areas of overlap” where a two-pronged approach would yield great benefits.Thames Freeport Logo

We are all keen to accelerate the benefits of the Freeport and see them ripple across the Estuary to people and businesses here. This will contribute to a number of government objectives including net zero, and Global Britain through advanced logistics, inward investment and much more. And of course, growth has a role in levelling up the region. Inward investment and international relationships have a part to play in supporting much of this.

The Thames Freeport is a potential key location for some of our hydrogen plans and supports our joint agendas for green tech research and development, as well as cleaner transport and logistics.

The Thames Freeport is on a fast track to attract businesses and it’s open now. Given its location, land available, and connectivity to the rest of the UK and the rest of the world, this is an amazing opportunity for a huge range of businesses who would benefit from a base near the capital and close to the Thames Estuary, delivering the greatest international reach our country has.

There is an exciting package of financial incentives to businesses who want to operate from the Thames Freeport. Any enterprises interested can find out more at

Not an island, we’re an Estuary

While the Growth Board is here to drive the transformation across the region and fulfil the potential identified in the 2018 Growth Commission report, we cannot do it in isolation. Relationships with private and public sector partners across the Estuary, across the UK and the around the world will help us accelerate and add value to the good, green growth we envision for the region, as set out in the Green Blue.

Over the coming months (pandemic restrictions allowing) we will build on these relationships with regions outside the Estuary and outside the UK to raise the profile of the Thames Estuary and secure inward investment. I will keep you posted here on my blog.