Thames Valley: Region’s productivity dwarfs Birmingham and Manchester combined

New figures in a Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) report into gross value added (GVA), a measure of an area’s contribution to the UK economy based on the value of the goods and services it produces per year, reveal that the Greater Thames Valley (GTV) region is the UK’s most productive region outside London, dwarfing the powerhouses of Greater Manchester and Greater Birmingham combined.

The report shows that the GTV, which is made up of the Thames Valley Berkshire, Enterprise M3, Buckinghamshire Thames Valley, Solent, and Oxfordshire LEP areas, delivered £144,939 million GVA in 2015/2016, compared to the combined GVA figure for Greater Birmingham and Solihull and Greater Manchester of £99,176 million. Yet the two areas have very similar working-age populations of 3,023,100 people for the GTV and 3,028,100 people for the combination of Greater Manchester and Greater Birmingham. 

Productivity drivers that mark the wider region out as an economic growth hub include a highly-skilled, educated workforce. Some 1.3m people in the GTV are qualified to Level 4 or above, compared to 990,000 in Greater Manchester and Greater Birmingham combined. Businesses based here also benefit from international and local connectivity, outstanding education and research assets, quality housing stock, and high-growth economic hubs. Key developments across the region include investment in new specialist office, laboratory and technical space, at locations like the Thames Valley Science Park and Harwell Science Park.

The GTV’s digital sector is also playing a key role in supporting growth across the region. A recent Tech Nation 2016 report into the impact that the digital sector was having on the wider UK economy showed that productivity in the digital economy significantly outperforms other parts of the economy. According to the report, employees within digital tech industries were found to be 90% more productive than workers in the economy overall – results which are borne out in the GTV, where the digital sector is helping to power the region’s economy forward.

The growth of world-leading areas of specialism such as Solent’s marine and maritime sector are also helping to boost the wider region. The creation of Enterprise Zone sites at Solent, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Enterprise M3 are also attracting innovative, world-leading companies in areas including digital media, 5G and cyber security.

The GTV LEPs are set to collaboratively promote the region to an international audience of property professionals and investors at MIPIMUK, the UK’s biggest property trade show, in October. They will be joined by partners including Basingstoke and Dean Borough Council, Heathrow Airport, Thames Valley Science Park and Castle View Retirement Village in Windsor.

Tim Smith MBE, chief executive of the Berkshire Thames Valley LEP which sits at the core of the GTV, said: “These results emphasise the importance of the Greater Thames Valley as an economic powerhouse, which has a significant impact on the health of the UK economy and punches above its weight when it comes to productivity.

“Berkshire, at the heart of the Greater Thames Valley, is enjoying a step change in the growth and appeal of its dynamic property market. Several landmark town centre regeneration schemes are now coming to fruition in Reading, Bracknell, Slough, Wokingham and Maidenhead, while at the same time, the University of Reading has begun the construction of its new (Thames Valley) Science Park adjacent to Junction 11 of the M4. Together, these developments continue to support a vibrant economy that does much to generate economic growth, nationally.

“Our recent Growth Deal proposal to government focussed directly on enhancing the connectivity of our sub region. A significant aspect of this is investment into strategic infrastructure projects, many of national or regional significance. The acknowledged economic benefits of such schemes reinforce the imperative to waste no more time in realising them as soon as possible. In particular we believe that a swift decision to invest in a third runway at Heathrow will strengthen the UK’s negotiating position on global trade deals.”

Gary Jeffries, Solent LEP chairman, said: “The Solent LEP benefits from port and airport gateways to global markets; research and innovation assets including three world-class Universities; and the globally-leading business cluster which has established the area as home of the UK marine and maritime sector.”

Richard Harrington, CEO of the Buckinghamshire Thames Valley LEP, said: “The investment opportunity for Buckinghamshire has been transformed in the past 12 months. Our three new Enterprise Zone sites all offer development opportunities not seen in this part of the region for a generation.  

“As well as the business rate, planning and development advantages that Enterprise Zone status offers, all three are set to benefit from the increased regional infrastructure investment being driven by the National Infrastructure Commission including East West Rail and the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway improving connectivity to London, across the Thames Valley and to the world-leading Universities and research hubs.”

Thames Valley: Region's productivity dwarfs Birmingham and Manchester combined

Thames Valley: Region's productivity dwarfs Birmingham and Manchester combined
Tim Smith MBE, chief executive of the Berkshire Thames Valley LEP