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Exporting and inward investment brings increased prosperity to the Thames Valley

Source: Public Sector Executive Jan/Feb 12

Paul Briggs, chief executive of Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce Group, discusses the economic development of the region and how public bodies have a key part to play.

Working closely with UKTI South East, we are the UK’s 2nd biggest export documentation issuing body, with more than 70,000 international trade documents processed each year. In 2011, our service increased by 12% and we process 23% of all of the UK’s international trade documents. This is a reflection of the large number of multi-national companies in the area and the proximity to the international hub of Heathrow Airport.

The Thames Valley area has world class strengths across a number of business sectors, with a strong base of expertise in technologies and science. The Thames Valley is home to many of the UK’s leading centres of excellence in motor sport, digital entertainment and pharmaceuticals. However, the key industry in the area for the past 20 years has been information & mobile technology.

There are over 400 companies in the region involved in the telecommunications industry and 11 of the world’s top 15 software companies are based here. The wireless technology that enabled Britain’s first mobile phone call in 1985 was developed in Newbury. Telecom products are moving to IP-based networks and wireless mobile convergence, which suits the traditional honed skills of the Thames Valley, combining the new software engineering requirements with skills available here. The headquarters of the world’s fastest-growing smartphone brands, including seven mobile phone design centres, are also based here.

The Thames Valley is also home to the key technology partners engaged in developing smart grid technology in the UK. Collaboration is moving at pace between IT infrastructure providers, energy infrastructure giants and utility Network Distributor Organisations, creating new opportunities for inward investors. Reading University will build on its worldwide reputation in climate change and environmental technology with the development of a new Centre of Excellence for Smart World Analytics to inform industry and government in monitoring, modelling and management of the introduction of low carbon related technologies.

Our office in Slough is the national headquarters for LinkToChina and the South East and South West regional office. Working with national partners the China Council for International Trade and Promotion (CCPIT) which has 70,000 members, and the British Chambers of Commerce, businesses in 15 regions in China and throughout the UK will have access to a Chamber-led network focused on creating new opportunities for international business collaboration and inward investment. The project’s target is to work with 1,000 UK companies.

Thames Valley UK Launch Pad is a service co-ordinated by the Chamber to help foreign-owned companies new to the area to significantly reduce the time and cost in planning, establishing and growing a presence in the UK. This service was one of the first softlanding propositions in the UK and in three years the project has assisted over 70 new investors accelerate entry into the UK.

The Thames Valley continues to reflect everything that is innovative and imaginative about the UK technology sector. The area boasts the highest concentration of computer services activity in Europe and as sectors converge we witness the world’s latest developments in mobile, pharmaceutical and advanced automotive on our doorstep. Businesses in the Thames Valley large and small recognise our talent pool and access to international markets that deliver growth. Our work alongside the world’s global brands and aspiring small businesses helps ensure these location benefits continue by securing infrastructure projects such as western rail access to Heathrow, and by creating ever-stronger links between universities and businesses. Recent successful projects such as Link- ToChina highlight the potential market opportunities that Chambers’ international relationships and networks can provide. We look forward to building in these in other key markets in the future.

We have successfully worked in partnership with a large majority of local authorities in our region and are active with them to create an environment that encourages overseas companies to set up and invest in the Thames Valley. In particular, the participation of several Councils in the LinkToChina project reflects the drive to attract new companies into their areas. We encourage these local authorities to offer incentives, reduce red tape and remove barriers to foreignowned businesses to open offices or manufacturing units – it’s good for business, creates jobs and contributes to the prosperity of the region.

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