The Heartland is a world-leading economic area, founded on science and technology innovation, powered by a network of world class universities and research centres. And it has the potential to achieve even more.
Our region is renowned for its world class strengths in digital technologies, life sciences, advanced manufacturing and green industries/ energy. We are pivotal to the government’s ambition for the UK to be the world's next Silicon Valley.
It is not surprising that speaking recently on the Today in summer 2022, the editor of The Economist, Zanny Minton Beddoes, said the government should ‘boost the areas Britain is strongest at’ and highlighted the ‘Oxford-Cambridge-London triangle’s’ potential to ‘help the whole of Britain’.
More than one in 10 of the UK’s knowledge sector jobs are located in the region’s cutting-edge science parks, research institutions, businesses and incubators, creating an ecosystem of innovation and capability that is globally renowned. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge continue to be ranked in the top three universities in the world.
Our economic success benefits not only the region’s residents, but the UK more widely, with the Heartland being a net contributor to the Treasury.
Success Cannot be Taken for Granted
Businesses in the region continue to face a number of challenges. In significant parts of the Heartland, productivity levels remain consistently below that of our global competitors, a consequence in part of increasing congestion on and reduced resilience of the transport system.
The region is reaching a point where it can no longer sustain economic growth because there is not the commercial space, skills or connectivity to link it all together.
Improved connectivity is key to overcoming these and ensuring our success into the future:
The Heartland accounts for approximately 10% of the UK’s carbon emissions from surface transport. Emissions per capita are 30% higher than the UK average (2005-2020). Cars are the greatest contributor to surface transport emissions within the Heartland. They account for 59% of emissions, while HGVs and vans account for 38%.
A Quality Environment
The Heartland is blessed with a highly attractive environment – built and natural, urban and rural– which helps make it an attractive place for investment and delivers a desirable place to live and work.
Over 10% of the region is designated as being part of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Chilterns on its own comprises 6% of the region’s total area. The region also has a valuable historic environment, including a wealth of historic assets including Blenheim Palace World Heritage Site.
The Heartland is home to 5.1m people, approximately 9% of the total population of England. And whilst the region has a number of centres of significant economic activity, it also has a large number of small and medium sized market towns and large rural areas resulting in a diverse range of transport needs, opportunities and challenges. As a result, around 35% of the region’s population live in small market towns and rural hinterlands, significantly above the national average.
Whilst overall the region is an economic success, there are significant areas of social inequality and deprivation, where opportunities for individuals to realise their full potential are limited.
Over 812,000 people in the region live in the top third most deprived local authority areas of England – accounting for 15% of the region’s population. The implications of failing to address inequality are only too evident: within Oxford for example, life expectancy amongst young adult males varies by 15 years across the city.
Heartland in Context
Released alongside the Draft Transport Strategy in 2020, Heartland in Context provides details on the economy, environment, people and transport system of the Heartland.