Report names Glasgow and Bristol economic ‘super-cities’

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A 2009 report produced by HSBC identified five cities in the UK that it believed would prove to be vigorous centres for growth industries. The company dubbed these urban areas ‘super-cities’ and described how their development would be characterised.

The five cities — Newcastle, Leeds, Liverpool, Brighton and London — each had unique attributes. Newcastle was deemed to be a science city, producing world-class scientific research, while Leeds was seen as a provincial hub of financial companies and ancillary services. For its part, Liverpool was characterised as a dynamic centre of culture and Brighton the capital of the UK’s rebellious ‘alternative economy’. London was identified as a city that attracted creative talent.

Additional research since 2009 has now enabled the banking company to identify two more super-cities. It now believes that Glasgow and Bristol will play an increasingly prominent role on the national and international economic stage, thanks to their strengths in key growth industries.

26,000 jobs will be created in Scotland by 2020

HSBC — The Future of Business 2011

Glasgow, according to the report, is set to become a leading international force in the renewable energy sector, while Bristol will emerge as a centre of advanced manufacturing.

The Scottish government has predicted that 26,000 jobs will be created in Scotland by 2020 and that many of these will be in Glasgow. The city is re-purposing and revitalising its traditional strengths in engineering to take advantage of the opportunities that the renewable energy industries present.

The rapid growth that will be seen in offshore wind farms over the coming decade is already attracting new investment to Glasgow.

In January, Spanish wind turbine manufacturer Gamesa announced a £40m investment in Scotland, including a centre for offshore engineering in Glasgow that will create 170 jobs. Gamesa is the third major company after Scottish Power and Scottish and Southern Energy to locate a centre of excellence in Glasgow.

The report claims that the city’s research capabilities are what will ensure its leadership position in the coming decade. Rival renewable energy clusters, such as Hull, may be closer to planned offshore farms but at present they lack a facility on a par with the world-class electrical engineering department at Strathclyde University — with 210 staff, it is the largest such facility in Europe.

The university leads the Sustainable Glasgow consortium, which estimates that green energy projects will bring £1.5bn of new investment to the city by 2020. Several municipal projects will come to fruition during this period, including plans to turn the city’s waste into biogas and the development of smart grids and district heating systems.

Scientists at Glasgow University are also working with EADS Innovation Works on the use of hydrogen fuels. They are investigating the potential of using nanotech materials as a means of storing hydrogen — opening up the possibility of developing fuel cells light enough to use on aircraft. Meanwhile, Edinburgh-based companies such as Pelamis and Aquamarine Power are developing capabilities in the field of wave energy.


Manufacturing has declined from 29 per cent of UK output in 1979 to 13 per cent in 2007. But the next decade will be a tipping point in this trend as a dynamic high-tech industrial base takes shape and Bristol companies will lead this re-balancing in manufacturing — a process that the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) calculates could create as many as 2.4 million additional jobs nationally.

Bristol’s tradition of high-tech production, primarily associated with the aerospace and information and communication technologies (ICT) industries, makes it ideally placed to benefit. New advances will enable just-in-time logistics to be superseded by just-in-time manufacturing, capable of providing personalised products to local customers.

The opening later this year of the National Composites Centre outside Bristol will provide prototyping and validation facilities to turn the city’s research into materials science into commercial success.

Not only that, but 3D additive manufacturing is also being pioneered in Bristol and is hoped to revolutionise production processes. Rather than being hewn from raw materials, components and products will be able to be ’printed’ from a range of materials, including metals and plastic.

Items from mobile phones and medical implants to football boots and watches have already been produced using the technology, which Bristol-based EADS also hopes to use to reduce waste by up to 90 per cent in the production of titanium aircraft parts.

As a result of Britain’s relatively high labour costs, automation will be a key component in the UK’s manufacturing renaissance. That bodes well for the city too, as it is a major centre for the development of advanced robotic systems.

What makes a super-city distinctive, however, is not just a strong presence of growth industries, but also the quality of life it offers. ‘The reason people move to these cities is because of their professional networks,’ said Dr Caroline Chapain of Birmingham University. ‘But what makes them stay is the atmosphere.’