No other region has benefited more from globalisation than the capital, London, which has become such a magnet for inward investment, talent and innovation that only cities like New York can be considered serious rivals. In spite of the financial crisis, London's economy is expected to grow at a faster rate than New York, Paris or any other established global city and will become the fourth-largest city economy in the world by 2020. But there are also huge challenges in getting there: from the availability and cost of skilled labour to the affordability of office accommodation and the upgrade of a congested and creaking transport system.
With an output of £251bn a year, London's economy is bigger than that of Sweden and Austria. If London were a country, its economy would be the ninth-biggest in the EU. Inner London generates the highest average output per resident of any region of the EU. Only Manhattan and Tokyo rival central London's extraordinary wealth-creation. Despite the financial crisis, London remains the world's leading financial centre, ahead in cross-border bank lending, foreign exchange, over-the-counter derivatives, and marine insurance net premium income. The creative industries are an important growth area for the UK economy as a whole, and one in which London excels, accounting for 25% of all jobs in the creative industries. And, of course, procurement contracts for the 2012 Olympics will be worth billions.
There are direct flights to 530 destinations worldwide from the five international airports in and around London, and high-speed rail services to Paris and Brussels. Heathrow is Europe's largest air hub, London has one of the world's largest overground/underground rail networks and is the hub for the UK's domestic transport networks. A large investment programme is addressing congestion and reliability issues, including £7bn of upgrades for the Olympics. By 2017, Crossrail will offer a direct rail link from Maidenhead and Heathrow to Essex and Kent. The 80-terminal port of London is one of Europe's largest sea-freight centres.
London has four universities in the world's top 100, more than any other city: Imperial College, University College London, King's College London and the London School of Economics. In 2009, the FT index put London Business School's MBA programme joint first in the world, alongside Wharton and above Harvard. There are 57 Nobel Prize winners among University of London alumni and staff.
Barclays, HSBC, Lloyd's of London, London Stock Exchange, Accenture, CSC, EDS, Compaq, Capgemini HP, Fujitsu, IBM, KPMG, Ernst & Young, Microsoft, Oracle, BSkyB, BBC, Reuters, Associated Press, News International, Biffa Waste Services, Veolia.
Quality of life
London has four World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London; Greenwich; the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; and the site comprising the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and St Margaret's Church. London offers a great variety of cuisine, from the Bangladeshi restaurants of Brick Lane to the Chinese food restaurants of Chinatown. The Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Royal Opera and English National Opera are all based in London, Europe's busiest shopping area is Oxford Street, and the capital has 13 League football clubs, five of them in the Premier League.
Office rents from £25 per sq ft in Docklands and £37.50 in Canary Wharf to £62.50 per sq ft north of Oxford Street and £80 per sq ft in Mayfair/St James's. Industrial rents around £11.30 per sq ft in west London, £8 per sq ft in east London.
The London Development Agency's Innovation Programme provides early-stage finance for companies bringing new products to market. The Manufacturing Sub Sector Support Programme is a £1.5m initiative offering business support in the areas of fashion, furniture and print.
23 Savile Row, 100,000 sq ft of office space in Mayfair, designed by Eric Parry Architects and offering unrestricted floor plates of up to 16,500 sq ft; Royals Business Park, which will be London's largest urban business park - 1.6 million sq ft of office space on a 50-acre waterfront site at the Royal Albert Dock; Beam Reach, three business parks on a 150-acre brownfield site in Dagenham and Rainham.
More than 300 languages are spoken among Londoners, the average speed of a car in the rush hour in London is 10.6 mph, and with 125,000 students, the University of London is Europe's largest contact teaching university.
London Development Agency - 020 7593 8000; www.lda.gov.uk
Think London - 020 7718 5400; www.thinklondon.com
London First - 020 7665 1500; www.london-first.co.uk.