Despite Brexit uncertainty, the future of the Thames Valley – the UK’s ‘Silicon Corridor’ – looks bright as a powerhouse of the national economy. But, what is its future as a recognised global leader?
A packed audience at this breakfast seminar staged by The Business Magazine heard that incoming foreign direct investment (FDI) is holding firm at present according to EY’s latest annual UK Attractiveness Survey – the UK remained the number one FDI destination in Europe in 2018, ahead of Germany and France.
Locally, Reading is the highest ranked South East location for attracting FDI, with projects up 20% (12 projects). and the seventh best performing FDI location in the UK.
Jobs created by FDI in the South East in 2018 were up by 26% from 2,739 to 3,678 –the highest number secured in a decade.
However, EY’s survey showed that perceptions of the UK as an FDI destination have weakened.
More global investors (15% from 8% last year) say they have paused one or more UK projects due to Brexit, and 6% plan to move assets out of the UK in the future.
“We are still leading the pack in Europe. Brexit has had an impact but investors are not leaving in droves. The Thames Valley has a really good platform,” added speaker Ros Payne of EY.
So, no immediate crisis, but the region must continue to invest in its own future – from implementing key infrastructure improvements and tackling productivity challenges, to working hard to nurture young emerging talent, while maintaining a highly skilled workforce, the seminar at the Royal Berkshire Conference Centre heard.
Charlie Nicholson of commercial property specialists Vail Williams spoke of the myriad factors influencing current Thames Valley pressures on land use and property types – and the need to build diverse environments to attract and retain talent within the Thames Valley.
Keynote speakers were agreed that the Thames Valley has much to offer from location and environment to IT excellence and tech clusters, from quality companies to skilled professional services and a highly regarded knowledge base.
Yet, as Alex Tatham, MD of Westcoast, highlighted, with or without Brexit, the Thames Valley needs strong global promotion and a powerful new identity – as the UK’s ‘Silicon Corridor’, he suggested.
Tatham also urged business owners to build stronger links with local schools, develop work awareness experiences, to help inform and nurture young emerging talent.
Echoing the need for improved business-education relationships, Paul Etherington of EY called for a co-ordinated regional approach to issues, plus a single promotional ‘voice’.
He asked: “Do we need a Thames Valley mayor?”
CoStar real-estate analyst Henry Murray had previously set the scene with an encouraging overview of the key Thames Valley commercial property themes and trends – not least the rapidly growing demand for co-working space. His near-term outlook for the ‘Silicon Corridor’: Relatively bright.
Read the full two-page report in our July/August edition