The eight RDAs established in April 1999 cover England except Greater London, which will get its own development agency after the London mayoral elections in May this year.
The first task of each was to come up with a regional economic strategy. Kirsty McHugh, policy adviser at the British Chambers of Commerce, says: `We were very impressed with how quickly they got their strategies together. The consultation process was very comprehensive, but they perhaps try to be all things to all people. They are all the same.’ There are certainly similarities, but individual regions are developing schemes along local lines:
Advantage West Midlands is creating a cluster of technology businesses stretching from Coventry to Birmingham, building on the area’s traditional strength in manufacturing.
East of England Development Agency hopes to increase exports through a regional international trade plan.
East Midlands Development Agency is building an east midlands observatory.
North West Development Agency is developing an education and training network using the facilities of local universities; creating an `axis of trade’ along the Mersey belt between Liverpool and Manchester.
South East of England Development Agency is creating a series of enterprise hubs and an internet portal for business in the region.
South West of England Regional Development Agency provides support for advanced engineering industry, including the aerospace sector.
Yorkshire Forward Is creating new companies through a business-birth- rate strategy, including setting up a virtual business school.
One North East is developing a number of `industry cluster’ teams to maximise inward investment.