Area strengths

The South East LEP area and our economy

  • Population of over 4m people [2012]- ONS forecasts that will increase by 6.9% to 4,388,000 in 2021. This will result from both local natural growth and net in-migration from elsewhere in the UK, particularly London
  • Rates of economic activity above the national rates, but below those for the wider South East.
  • Over 270,000 people work in London, 10.7% of our working age residents, the proportion is much higher in those SELEP districts closest to London
  • Home to 344,300 businesses - with a higher no of businesses per capita than the national average
  • Important supplier to the capitol - London companies rely on SELEP businesses to supply a wide range of goods and services. Sectors such as logistics, digital and creative industries, manufacturing, financial services and back office functions all enjoy goods and services from SELEP businesses.
  • Prime business location - the SELEP area is London’s premier expansion location and the prospects for sectors linked to the London economy are strong
  • Strong business clusters - SELEP is home to the nation’s largest concentrations of ports, transport and logistics firms and advanced manufacturing companies, it also has strong clusters of companies in life sciences, creative and cultural industries, health, land based industries and tourism.

Gateway to the world

  • Port, road and rail infrastructure to reach the UK, Europe and the rest of the world - SELEP’s sea ports and the road and rail networks that serve them provide the UKs most important gateway to the rest of the world.
  • Over half of England’s international sea passenger population and a quarter of of England’s sea freight go through SELEP’s sea ports each year, that is 14m passengers and 85m tonnes of freight.
  • Home to the busiest port in the UK with almost 12m passengers in 2012, the Port of Dover is by far the busiest passenger port in the UK
  • Home to the second largest UK port by freight traffic - The Port of London (mainly in Thurrock and Medway), comprising more than 70 terminals along the Thames, is the second largest UK port by freight traffic.
  • The UK’s leading link to Europe - 17m passengers and 1.3m tonnes of freight travel to and from the SELEP area and mainland Europe via the Channel Tunnel. Eurotunnel is seeing a 30% increase in freight traffic per year.
  • Key node to the UK’s logistics network - Nationally, 95% (by volume) of the UK’s imports and exports pass through the country’s ports, representing 75% of trade by value. This means that on-going investment in the motorways, national trunk roads and rail networks serving the SELEP’s ports is essential to ensure their efficient operations. Conversely, the congestion arising from the lack of such investment has a material, immediate impact on the productivity of companies throughout the UK and the performance of the UK economy as a whole.


  • SELEP companies report that a significant proportion (15%) of their business turnover is generated by products/services which are new to market - this compares with just 6% across England as a whole.
  • Innovative businesses - A higher proportion of businesses in the area have applied for a patent (3.2%) than the England average (2.8%).
  • Small entrepreneurial businesses - Self employment is above the national average in the SE LEP area, 11.0% compared to 9.8% for England.
  • Above average proportion of registered micro-enterprises <10 employees.
  • Home to nine universities - representing a powerhouse for new knowledge creation, innovation and, along with business, are a driving force behind major economic growth across the LEP.

Research strengths in the priority sectors include, Big Data, Automotive Engineering, Health Technology and new therapeutics, and Product Design.

Our sectors

  • Wholesale, retail, accommodation and construction - is relatively high (and generally these sectors do not provide high value employment).
  • High value employment - knowledge economy employment has increased from 14.6% in 2009 to 17.3% in 2012. Particularly in Kent where total knowledge economy employment rose by around 15% between 1998 and 2010, almost double the national rate of growth.
  • Business services - Forecasts show between that between 2010 and 2020 the largest part of employment growth will be in business services. Importantly, employment in non-market services is expected to increase only slightly during this time. Manufacturing employment is expected to continue to decline.
  • Public sector - 19.1% of employment in the public sector, compared to 18.6% for England as a whole [2012]. Public sector employment is particularly high in Southend (29.8%), Maidstone (25.1%), and Chelmsford (30.9%).

Growth sectors

SELEP makes an important contribution to national output, employment and businesses in its identified growth sectors:

  • Advanced manufacturing including companies such as such as BAE systems, e2v, Delphi and Cummins and their supply chains.
  • Life sciences/medicaltechnologies on key sites at Discovery Park and Harlow Enterprise Zones, Kent Science Park, ARU Medtech campus and Kent Medical campus.
  • Transport and logistics;
  • Low carbon environmental goods and services including SE LEP status as a nationally designated Centre for Offshore Renewable Engineering, Ford Dunton Technical Centre, which is a world leader in green automotive technologies and Thames Enterprise Park, on the site of the former Coryton Oil Refinery, will be a hub for new Environmental Technology and Energy generation.
  • Creative, cultural and media and the visitor economy. Tourism sector, employs 95,900 people, accounting for about 6.6% of total employment and 2.7% of total economic output. Creative industries employ 32,200 people and generate £2.5 billion in GVA. SE LEP makes the largest GVA contribution to this sector of any LEP outside of London.


  • 200,000 more households - projected for 2011 and 2021, an average of 20,000 homes per annum.
  • Completions - In 2011/12 and 2012/13 completions averaged just under 10,000 homes per annum and in 2013/14, it is likely that completions will remain at this level.
  • 170,000 houses needed - To match forecast household growth a further 170,000 homes need to be completed over the next seven years - an average of 24,000+ per annum.
  • The ratio of median house prices to median earnings was above the national average in 24 out of 32 SE LEP local authorities in 2012. In most respects this directly results from the demand for housing exceeding supply in local housing markets.

These challenges and prospects for economic and population growth are the foundation for our ambitions.

Skills and our workforce

  • Forecast job growth of 105,000 jobs by 2020. Our ambition is to almost double that.
  • Forecast areas for growth - The majority of jobs growth will be in professional occupations (+45,000)s); managers, directors & senior officials (+38,000); and associate professional & technical occupations (+33,000). When “replacement demand” is included over half (50.3%) of openings will be in high skilled jobs. Across the UK, there is unmet demand for science technology engineering and mathematics qualified workers with nearly two in five firms requiring STEM employees facing difficulties in recruitment.
  • IT - A high demand for programmers, software development professionals (1,517) and IT Business Analysts, Architects and systems designers (1,458).
  • Graduates - Over half of the employers with vacancies in the South East are seeking degree level candidates
  • Skills gaps - 55% of employers in the South East report workforce skills gaps in technical, practical or job specific skills and predictions show the number of jobs in skilled occupations typically requiring a higher level qualification is expected to continue to grow.
  • The proportion of residents with higher level (4+) qualifications - is relatively low despite an increase in Level 4 qualifications attained in recent years. In the SE LEP area 28.1% of residents aged 16-64 have level 4 or above qualifications compared with 34.2% for England.
  • The proportion of businesses with skill shortage vacancies - increased across the UK between 2011 and 2013. In the SE LEP area more than one in five (21%) establishments reported a skills gap or skills shortage vacancy in 2013, 23.7% of vacancies were due to skill-shortages, compared to 22.3% across England.
  • The rise of apprenticeships - since 2008/09 Apprenticeships more than doubled from 13,823 to 30,866 in 2012/13, a 123% increase, with the biggest increase seen in the 25+ age group - 319% increase. Top courses were Business and Administration, Health & Social Care, Management, and Retail & Customer Service.

READ MORE about our plans in our Strategic Economic Plan and Growth Deal pages.