Essex bucks the trend for UK FDI projects

Essex bucks the trend for UK FDI projects

RECENTLY published data shows Essex enjoyed an impressive 2018 for attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), despite a difficult year in general for the UK.

The EY (Ernst & Young) UK Attractiveness Survey 2019 – released at the start of June – saw Essex produce a 93% increase in completed FDI projects.

The publication, which “…examines the performances and perceptions of the UK as a destination for foreign direct investment”, revealed Essex completed 27 successful FDI projects in 2018 compared to 14 in 2017.

Although the number of additional jobs may have been less (555 compared to 1486 during the previous 12-month period) this was very much in line with the national picture.

Many of those projects saw Invest ESSEX, the inward investment promotion agency, as the delivery partner. Invest ESSEX Location Services Director David Rooke commented: “The increase in FDI projects over the last year demonstrates that Essex, uniquely adjoining both major international business hubs of London and Cambridge, can provide the ideal investment location for many overseas companies.

 “However, we cannot afford to be complacent,” Rooke continued. “The market for FDI is incredibly competitive and it is essential that Essex provides the opportunities and solutions for both today’s and tomorrow’s businesses in terms of international connectivity, infrastructure, market access, physical workspace, human capital and the supportive and competitive business environment, all of which contribute to successful business investment.”

 The UK remained the number one destination for FDI in Europe in 2018, ahead of Germany and France, with 1054 projects, its third-highest number of FDI projects in 20 years. However, this was a 13% drop in such projects compared to 2017 (1205) and, according to the survey, perceptions of the UK as an FDI destination have weakened.

In that light, the South East overall declined less than most regions with an annual change in projects from 2017 to 2018 of -2% (only Northern Ireland, up 14%, and Greater London, -1%, bettered those results).

London also continuing to hold its own generates a knock-on effect for Essex, with its proximity to the capital making it hugely attractive for FDI.

With journey times of approximately 30 minutes from the City of Chelmsford to London by road or rail, home to two London airports (London Stansted, with its growing long haul connectivity, and London Southend), ports including Tilbury, DP World’s London Gateway and Harwich International and the planned arrival of Crossrail, the county offers immediate access to London without the prohibitive costs of a base in the Capital.

Among the most eye-catching of the Essex FDI projects over the last 12 months is Indian automobile group Bharat Forge’s investment of £10m into Chelmsford-based Tevva Motors, who provide powertrain solutions for electric trucks.

Invest ESSEX is particularly keen to strengthen business with India, so the relationship with Bharat Forge is an encouraging sign for the future.

To further strengthen links, Invest ESSEX will be attending the 3rd Annual India-UK Tech Summit this month (June), as part of London Tech Week, representing the focal point for collaboration between the UK and Indian tech and start-up ecosystems.

Invest ESSEX will participate in the B2B matchmaking sessions and CXO networking evening to promote and identify opportunities for Essex-based tech companies with joint ventures, knowledge partnerships, licensing, pilots and developing contacts in the tech scene in India.

Other recent major FDI activity in Essex includes that of Teledyne e2v, whose parent company is US-based Teledyne Technologies, with a planned space imaging innovation park on their Chelmsford site.

Last month (May), it was announced the first delivery milestone for the supply of their CCD Bruyères image sensors to be used in the European Space Agency’s PLATO Mission.

As one of the jewels in the Essex business crown, Teledyne e2v is a global leader in specialised components and subsystems for innovative solutions in medical, science, aerospace, defence and industrial applications.

A sign of long-term confidence in the county was provided by Horiba Mira, the Japanese-founded provider of pioneering engineering, research and test services to the automotive, defence, aerospace and rail sectors, who recently committed to a further 10 years at their site in Basildon, Essex.

With the continuing uncertainty around Brexit impacting the number of UK FDI projects, there will be a continuing need for Essex to fight hard to avoid losing out to other parts of the UK in the future.

According to the EY report, 15% of global investors say they have paused one or more UK projects due to Brexit (up from 8% in 2017). On a more positive note, only 6% plan to move assets out of the UK in the future while five per cent of investors say they have increased investment in the UK due to Brexit.

As a further example of Invest ESSEX’s activities to attract FDI into the county, it represented the life sciences opportunities in the UK Innovation Corridor at the Biotechnology Innovation Organisation (BIO) International Convention 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 3rd to the 6th June 2019.

Invest ESSEX, in the form of Dave Russell-Graham (Inward Investment Manager – Life Sciences), was part of the OneNucleus stand at BIO – one of 19 stands covering the UK and Northern Ireland – promoting the major new investment opportunities of the new Harlow Science Park, which is currently under construction

Invest ESSEX is an investment promotion agency (IPA) and business support provider, promoting the opportunity of Essex as a prime UK business location to international and UK companies. For more information on our business growth plans or opportunities in the region please visit