By the end of 2014, the whole of the UK will see investment levels reaching around £60 billion, the first time it has reached this figure since the recession. This latest report by commercial agents Colliers, notes a definite shift in attention to regional locations as investors recognise there is more to the UK than just London.
By mid-November the North West had seen investment volumes of £2.3 billion, already exceeding last year’s total of £1.8 billion. Outside of London, the North West is the only region to have already beaten 2013’s results.
The North West climbed above the South East and West Midlands in the rankings
2013 was not an easy year to match either. The Ernst & Young UK Attractiveness Survey highlighted the North West as highly industrious when looking at 2013’s statistics. By measuring primarily Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) the survey calculates how ‘attractive’ regions are to investors around the world. In 2013 the North West saw a massive 56 projects secured, the third highest amount in the country, only behind London and Scotland. This is up on 2012’s 44, and consequently the North West climbed above the South East and West Midlands in the rankings.
However, the Colliers statistics still show massive favouritism towards the capital, even if this is a shifting perception. So far this year, not including London, the UK has only seen £12.2 billion worth of investment, 38% of the total amount. Without the North West’s contributions of £2.3 billion this would be less than £10 billion.
Fortunately there are a host of projects in the pipeline which are set to bring attention back to the regions. What is interesting to see is how cities are adapting. They know they cannot fully compete against London’s reputation so instead are redefining themselves by their assets and as specialist hubs.
Manchester, for example, offers some of the best transport infrastructure in the country. Its central location allows for fast national transport by road and rail. Therefore it is set to be a key city in both the Northern Hub rail project and HS2. Manchester is also home to the third busiest airport in the UK, Manchester Airport, which is on track for seeing its busiest year to date.
In the UK Attractiveness Survey, Simon Allport, one of Ernst & Young’s senior partners in the North West, noted which sectors were gaining popularity “While manufacturing remains prominent, making up over a third of FDI last year, the city is emerging as a centre of excellence for high-growth industries, such as digital and creative, and knowledge-led sectors such as life sciences.” Allport also recognised MediaCityUK as an important local hub which helps “lay the groundwork for Manchester’s future economic expansion.”
“Ultimately more attention is brought to the region”
The Leader of Manchester’s City Council, Sir Richard Leese, was also quoted in the survey, “The city has four world-class universities and 22 other universities within the wider catchment area, making this the most dense concentration of higher education in Europe.” The appeal of Manchester to students is unparalleled. The more people who study in the city, the more vibrant the atmosphere, the more start-ups and businesses are formed, and ultimately more attention is brought to the region.
“The outlook for future FDI in Manchester is bright” summarised Allport. Given his reflections were on the 2013 statistics of FDI, which the 2014 records are already breaking, it is safe to say that both Manchester and the North West have dazzling futures ahead.