Vibrant places are dynamic, entrepreneurial and innovative. They are places where new products and services are created, and where skills and knowledge abound. They provide the people that live and work in them with a sense of opportunity. They are places that will drive future growth.
When we measure dynamism and opportunity for the Vibrant Economy Index, we take into account the business formation rate, skills and qualifications (from GCSEs to degrees), the percentage of people employed in research and development, and the number of patents granted in an area.
The geography of dynamism is a story of cities and corridors. Areas in London and the South East dominate the top performers, although Cambridge in the East of England occupies the top spot on this basket of measures (See map 1). Other top performers are generally cities and parts of their wider city regions. As a result, the top 20% nationally comprises places liked Coventry, York, Brighton and Hove, Bath, Sheffield, Southampton, Bristol, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool.
The role of universities
The strong performance of these places is driven, in part, by the presence of higher education institutions (something that also contributes to the strong performance of Cambridge, London and Oxford). These play an important role in attracting people to the area to study and apply their skills. But it’s more than that. Universities often play a critical role in a local economy, whether by generating business spin-outs, pursuing research and development, driving innovation or raising aspirations.
It is also apparent that dynamism spills over traditional city boundaries into wider city regions. So, Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire – neighbouring authorities – both rank in the top 10. The same is true for Oxford and the Vale of White Horse.
The other notable geographical pattern in relation to dynamism and opportunity is the formation of key corridors or emerging corridors across the country, often along key transport routes. Perhaps the highest profile of these is the M4 corridor, with Ealing, Bracknell Forest, Windsor and Maidenhead, Reading, Swindon, Bristol and Bath all performing strongly. But there are others too, including the M3 corridor, which incorporates top performers Winchester and Southampton, and the M1/M11 corridor from London to Cambridge.
The geography of dynamism also appears to reflect a number of government policy initiatives. A clear corridor is emerging across the ‘Northern Powerhouse’, incorporating Liverpool, Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Manchester, Leeds, Harrogate, York and Sheffield. The same is true for the Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford corridor, with these three areas and their wider geographies all performing strongly on the dynamism and opportunity basket of measures.