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Press releases

APM reveals project management pivotal to regional economic growth in new report

Association for Project Management

6 min read Partner content

Association for Project Management (APM), the chartered body for the project profession, has released the findings of a new study The Golden Thread: The Regional Picture, commissioned by APM and undertaken by PwC UK, setting out a detailed regional analysis to bring to life the connections between projects and economic development across the UK. 

The report comes on the eve of the UK Budget, which is expected to lay out the Government’s ambitions in seeking a ’levelling-up’ of economic activity outside the South East. In its report, APM identifies five key ‘hubs’ of regional activity where projects are fuelling growth: The South West, the Heathrow Corridor, the Midlands Engine, the Northern Powerhouse and the Cambridge Cluster.

The Golden Thread: The Regional Picture builds on APM’s landmark 2019 report The Golden Thread: The Contribution of Project Management to the UK economy which revealed that project management in the UK generates £156.5 billion of annual Gross Value Added (GVA)2 and that an estimated 2.13 million full-time equivalent workers (FTEs) are employed in the project management profession.

APM’s latest report identifies the South West as employing a high concentration of project professionals – in terms of full-time equivalent jobs, the area employs 331,000 project professionals, or 16 per cent of the profession’s total UK workforce. This is a significantly high proportion, given that the total employment in the South West is 9 per cent of the UK total. 

These figures can be explained by significant major projects in the South West including Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, currently under construction, which has stimulated demand for project management skills and a strong supply chain. Other key drivers for the increased demand for project professionals’ skills centre around aerospace, defence and marine/environmental technologies.

Debbie Dore, chief executive at APM, said: “At a time when there is considerable focus on the need to turbo-charge and ‘level-up’ the economy, particularly through infrastructure investment and strengthening regional economic activity, this report shows how projects, and indeed project professionals can and will play a crucial role in economic development.  

“Our research reveals that project management is making a significant contribution and has the potential to galvanise change.

“We expect project professionals will increasingly provide the skills and capability to deliver these building blocks for the future. This report paints a detailed picture of the regional brushstrokes.”

APM’s chair John McGlynn continues: “The Government’s budget plans and forthcoming infrastructure strategy need to be well-coordinated and planned with a long-term perspective. We echo the National Infrastructure Commission’s call for its four tests to be met3 to look beyond a short-term political cycle, with specific plans and timetables and to be realistically funded if transformational change is to be delivered successfully. Good project outcomes require the right conditions for success.”

The regional hubs highlighted in the report – the South West, the Heathrow Corridor, the Midlands Engine, the Northern Powerhouse and the Cambridge Cluster – each make a significant and varied contribution to the area in which they are located, and additionally have the potential to mitigate challenges and bolster growth moving forward.  

You can read the report here.

The five hubs identified in the report:

The South West - Several factors drive the disproportionately high levels of project management activity in the South West including the high profile Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, currently under construction. It has also generated a significant supply chain of small and medium-sized enterprises in this hub. Other sectors driving increased demand for project professionals’ skills in this hub include aerospace, defence and marine/environmental technologies. Other key corporates in the region include Leonardo, Thales, and Msubs – further enhancing demand for project professionals.

West London: The ‘Heathrow Corridor’ - is a highly economically active area, benefitting from Heathrow as a major international transport centre, a high proportion of international businesses and a high number of SMEs, many of which form Heathrow’s extensive supply chain. The Golden Thread research explores how local industry collaborates on project work, and how project management is being used to address local challenges in the area.

The Midlands Engine - a coalition of councils, combined authorities, and local enterprise partnerships, universities and businesses across the region. The coalition aims to establish the Midlands as the ‘growth engine’ of the UK. A number of large, high profile projects are based in this hub, connected with the Midlands Engine initiative. The best-known of these is High Speed 2 (HS2), the government’s rail infrastructure project intended to improve connectivity not only in the Midlands, but between the North and South. Other major projects include the 2020 Commonwealth Games and the Midlands Main Line Programme.

The Northern Powerhouse - an economic initiative, proposed by the 2010-2015 Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government. The initiative was established as a means of reviving the Northern economy and boosting productivity outside the South East through agglomeration, in particular, in the core cities of Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull, and Newcastle. Initial project work has focused on improving transport links, regional devolution, and generating investment through agglomeration. Major projects in the region include Dreadnought Submarines (Ministry of Defence, constructed by BAE Systems), Sellafield Model Change, and the North of England Programme.

The Cambridge Cluster

The Cambridge Cluster is the informal name of a high growth area centred around the city of Cambridge. Recognised as one of the UK’s most buoyant and innovative areas, this hub is home to several vibrant pharmaceutical, biotechnology, IT and academic clusters. While the use of project management methodologies is quite established in the region’s construction, IT, and pharmaceutical sectors, uptake is more recent in scientific research and academia. The Golden Thread explores how project management is enabling these sectors to grow and collaborate throughout the region.

A regional breakdown of contribution made by the project profession by GVA, a regional distribution of project professional employment and regional proportion of UK total employment:

Contribution of the project profession in terms of GVA (Gross Value Added) by region:

London (The Heathrow Corridor)


South West 

£24.3 bn

South East


Midlands (The Midlands Engine)


North West (The Northern Powerhouse)

£19.1 bn

North East (The Northern Powerhouse)




East (The Cambridge Cluster)




Northern Ireland



Regional distribution of project professional employment, as a % of UK employment


Proportion of UK total employment %

Project Management Employment %

London (Heathrow Corridor)



South West



South East



Midlands (Midlands Engine)



North West (Northern Powerhouse)



North East (Northern Powerhouse)






East (Cambridge Cluster)






Northern Ireland



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