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East Anglia’s Productivity Challenge: Exploring the issues

The Productivity Institute’s eight Regional Productivity Forums have written an extensive agenda-setting analysis for each of the five English regions and the devolved nations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This includes historic regional context, key issues and future research priorities. Alongside this is an executive summary: a high-level overview highlighting the productivity picture in their area, including a scattergraph showing the disparities within on a NUTS3 level in comparison with the UK average, the primary drivers and bottlenecks, a SWOT analysis and a look to the future. Both can be downloaded on the right of this page. These were written with the support of the East Anglia Productivity Forum.

East of England 

The East of England, home to 6.2 million people, accounts for 9.3 per cent of the UK population and produces 8.6 per cent of the country’s output (gross value added). In terms of productivity as measured by GVA per hour worked, the East of England is ranked fourth after London, the South-East and Scotland. But in terms of productivity growth over the past decade, the region is among the weakest performers, only ahead of the North-West and Yorkshire and the Humber.

The East of England is made up of the traditionally rural area of East Anglia – including Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk – and the neighbouring counties of Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex, which form part of the London commuter belt. There is a large variation in economic performance, including productivity, across the East of England. East Anglia’s main cities and towns of Norwich, Cambridge, Peterborough, and Ipswich are the richest in terms of income and living standards. Yet there are many areas, including market towns, rural and coastal areas which are falling behind, with great disparities still very visible in areas deemed to be overall doing well. In the majority of regions though, productivity levels and growth rates are behind the UK average.
The region has significant potential strengths to improve its productivity. The combination of strong public and private investment in research and development is a key feature. Cambridge features one of the largest concentrations of knowledge-intensive businesses, skills and innovation in the UK, and stronger links to Milton Keynes and Oxford promise a number of opportunities for the region.

The Future Fens: Integrated Adaptation Programme as showcased at COP26 may help towards protecting the fens and progressing towards net zero through carbon sequestration without compromising its status as a key agricultural producer. The coastline of the East of England and the wind turbines currently in operation support the east coast’s commitment to becoming a world leader in carbon neutral energy production.

The port of Felixstowe is the UK’s largest container port with 40 per cent of national container traffic, meaning Felixstowe plays a pivotal role in keeping the UK’s trade moving. The north shore of the Thames in Essex is also part of the expanding Port of London Authority – still the country’s major port.

Authors Owen Garling, Yamini Cinamon Nair


  • Productivity Studies




Owen Garling, Yamini Cinamon Nair (2022) Owen Garling, Yamini Cinamon Nair (2022) East Anglia’s Productivity Challenge. Productivity Insights Paper No. 009, The Productivity Institute.