The South West is another region aiming to emerge as a leader in clean tech, named by the Government as a Low Carbon Economic Area on the back of its strength in marine energy. The announcement coincided with the go-ahead for a pioneering Wave Hub project, a giant grid-connected socket on the seabed off the coast of Cornwall, for wave energy devices to be tested on a scale not seen before. The region is predominantly rural but with a number of sizeable urban centres, led by Bristol, Bournemouth and Poole and Plymouth.
In addition to its emerging marine renewables sector, the South West region is home to a significant aerospace cluster, the largest in the UK, with global players such as Rolls-Royce, Airbus and GKN active locally. More broadly, the South West RDA is focusing its attention on advanced engineering, ICT, marine, food and drink, tourism, the creative industries, environmental technologies and bio-medical. The region claims to have the second-largest creative industries sector and the largest microelectronics sector in Europe. The survival rate of businesses in the South West is the best in Britain.
The region's airports - Bristol, Exeter, Bournemouth, Plymouth and Newquay - have been experiencing substantial growth. Portbury and Avonmouth, Bristol's two main ports, concentrate on the import and export of cars, forest products and bulk cargo, such as animal feeds. There are plans to develop a new deep-water container terminal to service the new generation of ultra-large container ships. Plymouth and Poole ports provide important roll-on, roll-off linkages to France, Spain and the Channel Islands. Fowey, Par, Teignmouth and Falmouth are also important regional ports for freight transport.
The region has one of the most highly qualified workforces in the UK: 27% of the population are qualified to degree standard or above. According to the Office of National Statistics, the South West is also the most productive region in the UK outside London and the South East. Advanced engineers are estimated to be 31% more productive than their counterparts in the rest of the UK. Additional surveys suggest workers in the South West enjoy the UK's highest levels of happiness, motivation and pleasure in their surroundings. The region has the UK's highest rates of inward migration of professionally qualified people, and labour costs are typically 5% lower than the UK average.
Airbus, Alcatel Lucent, Astra Zeneca, Dyson, EDF Energy, Friends Provident, Honda UK, Intel, Nationwide, ST Microelectronics.
Quality of life
The region is the largest in England, but with the lowest population density. It has about 625 miles of coastline, and more than a third of the region is designated as National Park or areas of outstanding natural beauty. Whereas the average commuting time in central London is 55 minutes, in the South West it is just 22 minute. The region enjoys the highest life expectancy in England and the mildest climate in the UK. Newquay is a destination for championship-level surfers, Padstow for foodies, and St Ives for artists and art-lovers.
Office rents: £27.50 per sq ft in Bristol; industrial rents: £7.50 per sq ft in Bristol and £6.50 in Gloucester; land prices: Gloucester £350,000 per acre, and Bristol £275,000 per acre.
The South West RDA has invested £1.7m in the 'Tardis' programme (Talent Attraction, Retention and Development In the South West) to match talent to opportunity in the aerospace, advanced engineering and the creative/digital industries.
Enterprise Pavillion in Bournemouth, a new innovation centre for the creative industries, developed and managed by the Arts Institute at Bournemouth; Science Park in Bristol, 40 hectares that provides 1.6 million sq ft of floor space; and Gloucester Business Park, where occupiers include Fortis Insurance, Detica, Message Labs, and Gloucester Primary Care Trust.
The South West has the largest number of women entrepreneurs, and levels of walking and cycling to work are the highest in the country.
Government Office for the South West - 0117 900 1700; www.gosw.gov.uk
South West of England Regional Development Agency - 01392 214747; www.southwestrda.org.uk
Business Link in the South West - 0845 600 9966; www.businesslink.gov.uk
UK Trade & Investment South West - 0845 6060969; www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/ukti/south_west.