The Heartland comprises a single, high productivity, knowledge-intensive cluster stretching from Oxfordshire in the west across to Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in the east.
The Heartland’s key specialisms are in advanced manufacture of computer, electronic and optical products; computer programming, consultancy and related activities; architectural and engineering activities, including technical testing and analysis; and scientific research and development, including life sciences and pharmaceuticals. Knowledge employment is concentrated in Cambridge and Oxford and large research business parks in their urban periphery/rural hinterland such as Oxford Science Vale, Granta Park, and the Cambridge Science Park. Other smaller clusters are dispersed throughout the Heartland.
Throughout the area 11.1% of the workforce are employed in ‘knowledge’ jobs, above the national average of 9.6%.
This rises in South Cambridgeshire to 29.6%, Vale of the White Horse (22.2%), South Oxfordshire (21.8%), Cambridge (18.9%), Wycombe (14.8%), and Daventry (14.0%).
Many of the areas within the corridor have some of the highest levels of productivity per worker outside of London.
The Heartland boasts many historic market towns and cities and a positive track record of creating places and environments where people want to live and work.
Several of these towns and cities have cultural and retail offerings of national significance, and have high quality schools with ‘outstanding’ and ‘good’ OfSTED ratings.
Many towns and cities have attractive rural hinterlands and a number of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty sit within the corridor including The Cotswolds, North Wessex Downs, the Chilterns and the Fens.
There’s a strong focus on developing, and maintaining the quality of life across the Heartland area. This includes improving access to health to leisure facilities, public open spaces and the rural areas. It is vital that such initiatives remain a focus, ensuring that there is balance between growth and life and leisure quality. Some parts of the area, such as Aylesbury, Bicester, Bedford and North Northamptonshire have put forward proposals for garden towns and communities.
Across the Heartland, 32% of all residents between 16 and 64 year of age have a Level 4 or above qualification, compared to an average of 30% for England and Wales. In Cambridge, Oxford, Chiltern, South Cambridgeshire, South Buckinghamshire and Vale of the White Horse it is between 40% and 50%. This shows a clustering of highly skilled workforce across the corridor, typically in areas of very high quality of life with good connectivity to London and/or in areas of high productivity, knowledge‐led jobs.
However the key concern of our top businesses is access to skilled labour. Collectively, we have problems of a skills mismatch, skills retention from our world‐class Higher Education Institutions and some low quality schools and colleges teaching. As many locations reach near full employment, this compounds the difficulty local businesses have in finding and attracting skilled labour. The lack of affordable housing in many parts of the area can lead to longer commuting journeys.
The National Infrastructure Commission's interim report into the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge growth corridor made clear the huge opportunity that the area presents to the UK economy.
Here's what it said:
UK's Silicon Valley
"The corridor connecting Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Oxford could be the UK's Silicon Valley – a world renowned centre for science, technology and innovation. But its future success is not guaranteed."
Firing up the post-Brexit UK economy
"This corridor is a national asset, that competes on the world stage and can fire the British economy – but only with an integrated and ambitious strategy to deliver new homes, connectivity and opportunities can it realise its full potential."
An additional £163bn GVA and 700,000 jobs
"Based on current trends in development, population and local economic growth – the area could see job growth of 335,000 by 2050, increasing economic output by £85bn. But… analysis prepared for the Commission suggests that the economic potential of the area is greater than this….the area could support a further 700,000 jobs by 2050, increasing GVA by £163bn."
But don't take the region for granted
"Past success is no guarantee of future economic performance and there are already signs the corridor's sustained growth is testing limits of infrastructure."