The region is geographically the UK's second-largest, stretching from remote north Norfolk coast to the highly developed areas near London. A lesser reliance on manufacturing means the East of England entered this recession in a less vulnerable position than many regions, but the decline in world trade has hit its ports, with port operators at Felixstowe and Harwich cutting costs and jobs, due to over-capacity. Dubai Ports World has also stalled its £1.5bn investment at Thurrock.
The East of England economy contributes 10% of the UK's GDP, only one of three regions in the UK to be classed a 'wealth generator' for the Treasury. It is also the UK's number one location for commercial R&D spend - 25% of the national total - and has the nation's largest concentration of R&D engineers per capita. Norwich is home to the largest concentration of plant, food and microbial scientists in Europe. Cambridge alone has 185 biotech companies and a quarter of Europe's publicly quoted biotechs. And the largest R&D ICT cluster in Europe is at BT Adastral Park in Ipswich. A cluster of 290 environmental services companies is concentrated in Peterborough, supported by work at the University of East Anglia's five-star-rated School of Environmental Sciences, and Cranfield University's Waste Management Centre.
Seaports include Felixstowe - the UK's largest container port - and proposed port expansions are set to increase container trade by 71%. The East of England is home to Europe's fastest-growing airport at Stansted, which plans to increase passengers from 24 million annually this year to 68 million by 2030. Together with Luton Airport, it offers flights to all main European cities. The Government is bringing forward investment in transport infrastructure, including the A11 Fiveways to Thetford improvement and proposed measures for the A12.
Employment in the region has remained relatively stable over the past year. The region is home to a dozen higher education institutions, including Cambridge, Cranfield, Essex, Hertfordshire and University of East Anglia (UEA) - all with strong industrial ties. The University of Cambridge is ranked second-best in the world, according to the Times Educational Supplement. However, a key challenge for the region is how to increase access to this high-quality education in a largely rural population.
Tesco, Ford Motor Company, Marks & Spencer, DSG International, Thomas Cook, Total UK, Orange Personal Communications Services, BT, Unilever, GlaxoSmithKline.
Quality of life
Within easy reach of the capital, but without the associated costs, quality of life and cost of living are good, with a choice of locating in historic cities or picturesque countryside, either inland or by the sea. The region is home to high- profile cultural events such as the Aldeburgh Festival, and also offers a wide range of leisure options, from watching the horseracing at Newmarket to dining at Delia Smith's Restaurant and Bar. The Dr Foster report recently rated Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital NHS Trust and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust as having among the best survival rates in the country.
Cambridge offices, £26 per sq ft; land prices: from £160,000 per acre in Ipswich to £400,000 per acre in Bedford.
EEDA has recently launched a £5m regional loan fund aimed at supporting innovative SMEs in early growth before attracting venture capital funding. And the Grant for Research and Development product provides grants from £5,000 to £250,000 to help businesses carry out work that will lead to technologically innovative products or processes.
Cambridge Business Park, home to tech businesses like CSR, Autonomy, The MathWorks and Red Gate Software, but also intellectual property firms such as Mewburn Ellis, Venner Shipley and Mathys & Squire; Martlesham Heath Hi-Tech Cluster (including Suffolk Innovation Park); Summit Business Park, Felixstowe, with unit sizes ranging from 2,500 sq ft to 3,615 sq ft.
The first commercial jet liner, built by De Havilland, the world's first radio factory at Marconi, the discovery of the atom and invention of the first mobile phone all happened in the East of England.
East of England Development Agency - 01223 713900; www.eeda.org.uk
East of England Regional Assembly - 01284 728151; www.eera.gov.uk
Government Office for the East of England - 01223 372500; www.go-east.gov.uk
East of England International - 01223 450450; www.eei.online.com
Business Link East of England - 08457 171615; www.businesslink.gov.uk/east.