Trade & Investment

With a population of more than 1.25 million and over 42,000 businesses, the Solent area is an internationally-recognised key economic hub anchored around the Isle of Wight, the two cities of Portsmouth and Southampton, the New Forest, the M27 corridor and the Solent waterway.

Our position also means we are the UK’s gateway to European and global markets, with direct highway and rail links to London and the strategic national corridor, and international connections through our airport and two ports, which lie just 20 miles from the world’s busiest shipping route from Shanghai to Rotterdam.

Solent Partners is a member of Maritime UK, which brings together the UK’s shipping, ports, marine and business services industries to promote the sector, influence government and drive growth.

The Solent is a vibrant area for trade and investment

The Solent’s coastal location, business base, research assets and educational strengths positions us as the UK’s leading marine cluster, at the heart of the UK’s marine and maritime economy.

The Solent’s marine and maritime sector is one of our largest and most productive sectors, accounting for 20.5% of Solent’s GVA, providing 40,000 jobs locally, and supporting more than 3,000 businesses. Over the period to 2025, the marine and maritime sector in the Solent region is forecast to grow by at least 5%.

Sea transport & international trade

Our ports at Southampton and Portsmouth are the most advantageously positioned in the UK. Situated just 20 nautical miles from international shipping lanes and less than 100 nautical miles from the mass markets of mainland Europe, they provide a strategic hub and gateway to global markets for enterprises across southern and central England.

Portsmouth Port is one of the country’s leading ‘Roll-on, Roll-off’ (Ro-Ro) traffic destinations, with crossings to France, Spain and the Channel Islands. Southampton is a critical stopping point on the world’s busiest trade route from Shanghai to Rotterdam; a gateway to global markets for the automotive industry; and the busiest cruise port in the UK. Supporting 15,000 jobs and contributing over £1.0bn of GVA to the local economy. 

Southampton Port’s potential contribution to the export-led recovery is clear from its data on vehicle exports, which rose from 650,000 in 2012 to 900,000 in 2016, with further increases to 1.858m forecast by  2035.

Marine Manufacturing

We have clear strengths in marine manufacturing. The Portsmouth Naval Base sits at the heart of a high-tech defence and advanced manufacturing cluster, supporting 20,000 direct and indirect jobs, contributing over £1.6bn of GVA. This cluster extends beyond marine into aerospace, including companies such as BAE Systems, GE Aviation Systems, Astrium and Qinetiq.

We have an international reputation for leisure marine excellence and a cluster of world-class Superyacht designers, that play a central role in maintaining the UK’s world-leading reputation for the production of quality powerboats and high-value sailing yachts. We are renowned as a venue for watersports, sailing, ocean racing, long-distance races and for globally recognised events such as Cowes Week, Southampton Boat Show and Seawork. Our waterways and marinas are filled with leisure boats year around, supporting a variety of jobs in large and small businesses across the economy.

We also have strengths in emerging sectors and technologies, such as composite manufacturing, marine autonomous systems, offshore wind and tidal energy; sectors in which our skills and innovation assets can give us first to market advantage. The Isle of Wight, home to the world’s first hovercraft, is now a major site for the development of composite materials, used by GKN, GURIT, BAE systems, local boat-builders and the Danish company Vestas’ wind turbine blade research and testing facility.

Tech and Innovation

Solent Partners is a strong backer of innovation across the region, building on the investment achieved through the Solent LEP in major innovation centres including the Future Technology Centre, the Centre for Creative and Immersive Extended Reality (CCIXR) and the Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) at the University of Portsmouth; the School for Marine Science and Engineering at Warsash; University of Southampton’s Centre for Cancer Immunology; the National Maritime Systems Centre in partnership with QinetiQ and Fareham Innovation Centre.

We are a founding partner of The Solent Cluster – a collaboration of industry leaders, global organisations, universities and local government working together to create a low carbon future that will benefit the local economy, the region and the UK. 

We work closely with the three universities in the region – University of Portsmouth, University of Southampton and Solent University, building the evidence base supporting national funding for research and innovation; and driving innovation across the Solent’s SME community through a range of partnerships, including, among others, Tech Solent and Venturefest South.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website.

Privacy Policy