It has eight clubs in the world's richest football league, yet the North West performs poorly on important social indicators. Manchester and Liverpool are enjoy strong economic growth, and these historic rivals are increasingly co-operating on initiatives such as the Northern Way.
With almost 7 million people and more than 250,000 companies, the North West has an economy bigger than 15 EU countries, and is worth £119bn - a tenth of overall UK GDP. Comprising Manchester, Liverpool, Cheshire, Lancashire and Cumbria, the region is home to an internationally recognised biologics community and is Europe's biggest biomanufacturing region. In the digital and creative sector, it is Europe's second-largest media hub, and the BBC is moving five departments to the region. It has the largest manufacturing sector in the UK at £20.3bn, the largest aerospace and second-largest automotive sectors. It has nuclear energy expertise (with half the UK's workforce), and its financial and professional services sector is the biggest outside London.
The North West has three international airports: Manchester Airport, one of Europe's top 20, with 210 direct routes worldwide; Liverpool John Lennon, one of Europe's fastest-growing regional hubs; and Blackpool International. Liverpool is one of Europe's leading container ports, handling more than 30 million tonnes of cargo each year. The North West has 70% more motorway than the national average. More than 100 trains operate daily along the West Coast Main Line between the North West and the capital, and the Liverpool-to-Manchester line has been granted a £100m upgrade to reduce journey times to 30 minutes.
The employment rate of working-age people in the North West stands at 72.1%. The region boasts one of Europe's largest university concentrations, with 12 universities, four higher-education institutions and 60 further-education institutions. It graduates 65,000 students a year and has the second-largest concentration of graduate-level workers outside London and the South East. A quarter of the population have NVQ Level 4 or above.
BAE Systems, Peel Holdings, AstraZeneca, Co-operative Group, Jaguar Land Rover, Vauxhall, Unilever, Bank of New York Melon, BBC, Lilly, Bentley, Fujifilm.
Quality of life
About a third of the region is designated as National Park or an area of outstanding natural beauty. It includes the dramatic landscapes of the Lake District, an impressive industrial heritage, and Blackpool - Britain's top seaside resort. Chester is elegant and sophisticated, while Liverpool and Manchester have world-class symphony orchestras, acclaimed museums, a wealth of galleries and arts institutions, plus a welter of top-class restaurants and bars.
Manchester city centre: £28.50 per sq ft (offices)/£5.50 (industrial); Salford Quays: £18.50 (offices)/£5.00 (industrial); Liverpool: £18-£20 per sq ft (offices)/£5.00 (industrial); Chester: £20 per sq ft (offices)/£5.25 (industrial); Warrington: £17.50 per sq ft (offices)/£5.50 (industrial).
Innovation vouchers worth £3,000-£7,000 are designed to help north-western business owners, entrepreneurs and social enterprises to buy expertise from a knowledge provider - typically universities and further education colleges - to develop innovation and enhance business. The North West's Grant for Business Investment provides help for investment projects that will increase productivity, skills and employment in the region. Maximum level of grant available ranges from 10% to 35% of total project cost.
Spinningfields is Manchester's business area, 2.37 million sq ft of flexible new office space in 12 signature buildings; the Unity scheme on Liverpool Waterfront, more than 155,000 sq ft of flexible Grade-A office space on 16 storeys, the UK's largest new-build office development outside London; Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus; Liverpool Science Park; Manchester Science Park and One Central Park.
Foreign direct investment projects in 2008-09 safeguarded or created more jobs in the North West region than anywhere else in the UK outside London.
Northwest Regional Development Agency - 01925 400 495; www.nwda.co.uk
Government Office North West - 0161 952 4000; www.gos.gov.uk/gonw
Business Link Northwest - 0845 00 66 888; www.businesslink.gov.uk/northwest
Midas (Manchester) - 0161 877 3000; www.investinmanchester.com
The Mersey Partnership - 0151 237 3931; www.merseyside.org.uk
Cheshire and Warrington Economic Alliance - 01606 738 083; www.cwea.org.uk
Lancashire Economic Partnership - 01254 300 460; www.lancashire-ep.org.uk
Invest in Cumbria - 01768 895 350; www.cumbria-investment.co.uk.