Manchester still top location for foreign investment outside London

Bob Ward

For the fourth consecutive year Manchester has been ranked as the best-performing city in the UK, outside London, for attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) projects.

The city was home to 34 FDI projects in 2019, according to the EY 2020 UK Attractiveness Survey.

The EY report examines the performance and perceptions of the UK and its regions as destinations for FDI, and this year includes a survey of 800 international investors looking at the impact of COVID-19 on investment.

Manchester was home to 45% of all projects in the North West in 2019, and it was the only North West location to make the Top 10 for FDI.

Within the region, Liverpool was second placed with eight investments (2018 eight) and ranked 14th overall, while Crewe attracted the largest project, which created approximately 582 manufacturing jobs.

Despite Manchester taking the top spot and the region gaining three more projects than in 2018 (70), the total number of FDI projects in both Manchester and the wider North West (73) remained lower than the record 20-year high seen in 2017 (Manchester 43, North West 105).

With 73 projects, the North West came fourth in the overall ranking of all UK regions and devolved administrations, behind Greater London (538), Scotland (101) and the South East (83).

The estimated number of jobs secured by investments in the North West in 2019 stood at 3,389, which ranked third of all UK regions for declared employment, behind London (11,516) and Scotland (6,438).

This marked a significant increase on the 2018 total of 1,390, as the average project size in the region grew from 19.9 jobs (2018) to 75.3 jobs (2019).

The two leading sectors in the North West in 2019 were digital (23 projects) and business services (11 projects), accounting for 45% of investment into the region.

This was in line with the UK as a whole, with digital (39%) and business services (15%) accounting for the highest proportions of projects across the nation.

The most common origins of projects into the North West in 2019 was also reflective of the wider national picture with the US (34%) and Germany (12%) leading the rankings. India and Ireland were recorded as joint third with each country attributable for seven per cent of investment into the region.

Bob Ward, managing partner for EY in the North West, said: “It’s encouraging to see that the North West continues to attract a large amount of foreign direct investment, generating nearly 3,400 jobs last year.

“Manchester’s inward investment figure continues at pace and places it, yet again, as the number one city outside the capital, while Liverpool continues to thrive with another eight FDI projects last year, ranking 14th overall in the UK.

“It isn’t surprising that digital projects continue to top the list.

“The North West has seen its strongest year in the decade in terms of digital investment and has long-since been regarded as a hub for the digital and technology industry – which just serves to highlight how the region is a fantastic example of a modern, progressive economy.”

He added: “With Manchester and Liverpool being the target for over 56% of investment, it is encouraging that the rest of the region achieved growth of 28% in FDI.

“However, the share of activity going to our largest cities has grown over the last decade and so we can’t be complacent and need to continue to work hard to ensure all our places can attract investment.

“The North West has made significant progress in terms of increased devolution to ensure that we have more power to invest in our towns and communities, but today’s findings show us that more needs to be done to drive economic activity outside of our core cities and across the region.

“As we emerge from COVID-19 this will, no doubt, be at the top of the region’s agenda – supportive policymaking around key business issues such as rates and planning, along with striking the right balance between public and private sector investment to spread the wealth for the benefit of everyone in the region.”