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All RDAs across England are closing by March 2012 (see transition and closure section). With our resources reducing steadily, this page has not been recently updated and the information below may not be current. If in doubt, please contact us directly.

West of England

Economic overview

The West of England (which is made up of the Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Unitary Authority areas) has the largest economy in the region. Over 500,000 people are employed in the sub-region with about two thirds of this total accounted for by the Bristol urban area. Commuters from across the West of England travel to work in the Bristol area and to a lesser extent Bath. The area as a whole, in terms of economic linkages, housing markets and shopping patterns, functions as a city-region. As such the West of England, and Bristol in particular, is the engine room of the region’s economy and remains the top priority for the South West RDA. Investment in the area brings significant economic benefits beyond its own borders.

Two of the RDA’s priority sectors – advanced engineering and creative industries – are particularly strong in the West of England.

Bristol has the strongest digital media supply chain outside London, with a diverse client base working alongside leading international brands. The RDA has strengthened the city’s offer by, for example, investing in the Watershed. The complex was the UK’s first national media centre and is home to a number of creative businesses and supports many more.

Aerospace is another key sector. Almost all of the UK’s top 11 aerospace companies have headquarters or major facilities in the South West, employing thousands of people in good quality, high skilled jobs. Just over a quarter of the UK aerospace industry derives from the SW Region. The South West RDA is involved in a range of programmes and provides funding to support the technological development of the industry in the region.

RDA support

As a result of the Agency’s budget review last year (2009), the Agency has had to scale back its activity in 2009/10 and 2010/11. Given the importance of Bristol and the West of England to the region’s economy, however, substantial capital investment in the area will continue during that period, subject to an overall ceiling of £20.6 million.

The £300 million SPark  – the proposed science park at Emersons Green near Bristol – is the biggest project. It will support investment by economically important hi tech and advanced engineering firms in Bristol, improving the city’s (and by extension the region’s) competitiveness in national and global markets.

In March 2010, the proposed National Composites Research Centre announced that it had selected Spark for the development of a 70,000 sq ft facility which will open in Spring 2011.

The RDA also supports Science City Bristol. The Bristol city region was designated one of six Science Cities by the Government in 2005 in recognition of its outstanding achievements and strengths in science. Each science city has unique strengths and challenges but all are working to use their science city status to drive economic development through science and technology and to improve linkages within the scientific community.

At the same time, parts of the West of England suffer a range of disadvantages and do not share in the prosperity of the sub-region as a whole.

The Agency has indicated that driving up the economic performance of South Bristol is a key priority over the next few years.

In terms of regeneration, Hengrove Park is the lynchpin of an extensive programme for south Bristol, a deprived and economically underperforming part of the city. The Agency has funded £8.5m of investment in infrastructure to open-up the first phase of development, which allows three major public sector investments to be secured in a new South Bristol college, major leisure facility (including a 50m public swimming pool) and new hospital. The site works creates additional land available for residential and employment development opportunities.

The Agency also supported the community in Knowle West, South Bristol, to demolish a rundown former health centre building and replace it with a purpose-built sustainable media centre and community hub.

The centre, which opened in 2008, provides a range of media-related facilities, including production suites, edit suites, screening room, and managed workspace for a deprived community which is developing the creative, educational and social potential within the surrounding area and Bristol as a whole.

Elsewhere in the West of England, work has now finished on Weston-super-Mare’s promenade project. The RDA’s investment enabled the upgrade of flood protection measures to create an improved public realm along the sea front. Design and tendering has also been progressed for works to upgrade Pier Square, immediately in front of Weston Pier, which is currently being refurbished following the devastating fire of 2008.

BAC 100 in 2010

2010 marks a century of aircraft production around Bristol. 100 years of innovation, expertise and commercial savvy - a legacy that underpins the UK's most advanced and successful aerospace hub, as well a host of related industries across the South West, from advanced engineering to composite technologies. BAC 100: 2010 is a year-long celebration of our aerospace heritage, for more information visit the BAC100 website.

Millennium Square, Bristol city centre

Boy on rope ladder at Hengrove