Collaboration was the word that cropped up time and again in presentations from guest speakers during the annual Business Conference run by Sedgemoor District Council at the McMillan Theatre.

More than 120 delegates attended the event, which looked at the potential for development along the M5 corridor and was entitled ‘Well-connected for Growth’.

Speaker after speaker affirmed that the best way to harness the potential was to collaborate with neighbours.

Chief Executive of the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), David Ralph, started the ball rolling by talking about the £35bn economy of the LEP’s area and the strategy for its future.

He said the focus would be on high potential sectors across the LEP such as clean energy, including nuclear and offshore renewables; high-tech engineering, including marine aerospace and photonics and digital futures, including big data, environmental and health technology.

The recent and future growth of two of the LEP’s cities – Exeter and Plymouth – was examined first by Karime Hassan, the chief executive of Exeter City Council and then by strategic director at Plymouth City Council, Anthony Payne. Both said they were working closer with each other than ever before.

Catering for almost 10 million passengers a year, Bristol Airport is aiming to be everyone’s favourite airport according to its planning and sustainability director, Simon Earles who said it was currently ‘leaking’ seven million passengers from the South West to London airports.

Alan Nettleton from Catapult looked to the future of motorways as a public transport network with automated vehicles and ‘stations’ while Dr Robinson of Arup predicted the vital role of technology in the creation of ‘smart cities’.

Sedgemoor’s place in the region between now and 2050 was envisaged by Wayne Dyer of Arup, which has been assisting the Council in preparing its future economic priorities; namely clean and inclusive growth, digital transformation, higher skills and enhancing the natural capital.

Martin Bellamy, chairman of Gravity, the smart campus being developed on the former ROF Bridgwater site, described the site as a catalyst for regional change and innovation.

Rounding off the conference, Stephen Henagulph, chief executive of Somerset Chamber of Commerce, echoed the message that businesses needed to work together collaboratively to get the recognition the South West deserved.