The South East of England will "live or die" on its ability to create a dynamic "knowledge-based" economy.

That is the message from the Chairman of the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), Allan Willett CMG, at the SEEDA Annual Open Meeting last week.

In his keynote speech, Allan Willett said: "SEEDA is acting as the catalyst for sustainable economic development in the South East. But remember, the knowledge-based economy is not just about the new sunrise businesses. The greatest overall gains will be won by the existing businesses applying the new technologies."

The Internet, he says, is the modern equivalent of electricity.

"Those companies who do not use it will be as much disadvantaged as those who failed to adapt to the use of the telephone or fax."

As part of its strategy to promote business growth and innovation, SEEDA is spearheading a range of region-wide initiatives, including:

Enterprise Hubs: establishing business networks across the South East, including Southampton, to incubate new business start-ups and encourage clustering of knowledge-based businesses, linked to the region's universities and research institutions;

Environmental Industries & Technologies: supporting "Green" enterprises and tackling environmental problems head-on, through a partnership of the South East's private, public and voluntary sectors;

lBusiness Sector Groups: headed by leading captains of industry in key business sectors, the groups are developing strategies and action plans to make their industries more competitive.