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15 March, 2006 - 10:15 By Staff Reporter

Boston to Stansted ‘tech-jet’ service gets executive thumbs up

A new ‘tech-jet’ service from Stansted, set to directly link the East of England’s biotech and hi-tech clusters with Boston and Silicon Valley, has been hailed by key executives within the region.A new ‘tech-jet’ service from Stansted, set to directly link the East of England’s biotech and hi-tech clusters with Boston and Silicon Valley, has been hailed by key executives within the region.

US airline Maxjet plans to launch a direct route to Boston within two to three months, before adding a Midwest destination later on in the year, with the intention of bringing a Silicon Valley route on-line in mid-2007.

The Boston link, which gives the region’s biotech cluster direct access to its second largest counterpart in the US, has been described as "extremely important," while the Silicon Valley route has been lauded as "the dream ticket" for hi-tech and biotech alike.

Business Weekly understands that San Jose, at the expense of San Francisco and Los Angeles, will be the first West Coast destination added to Maxjet’s route network – a response to demand from both sides of the Atlantic.

Jeff Solomon, chief executive of the region’s biotech networking organisation, ERBI, said: "The Boston route is extremely important for the biotech community in this region.

"We have about 20 members that have facilities in both locations, covering the whole range of the healthcare industry, from therapeutic products and services to diagnostics. Many of them will have personnel travelling on an almost weekly basis, so the service will be very useful.

"Many other members have business with companies in the Cambridge/Boston region so they will also fly there on a regular basis. Even if they do not have direct business, many companies will stop off in the Boston region to develop prospective business because of the quantity and quality of companies there."

The Massachusetts biotech cluster boasts over 400 firms, with plans to create as many as 100,000 new jobs by 2010. Many local biotechs have signed joint-development or licensing deals with Boston counterparts, while companies such as Genzyme, Acambis, Abcam, Intercytex and Cytomoyx have operations in both locations.

Maxjet, which offers low-fare, all business class flights between Stansted and the US, launched its inaugural flight to JFK airport in New York in November 2005. It is currently offering return fares to New York for £430 and to Washington Dulles, due for launch next month, for £599.

The founder and CEO of Maxjet, Gary Rogliano reported that initial demand had been "extremely encouraging," with load factors consistently over 50 per cent.

Rogliano added that the expansion of Maxjet’s route network had been mapped out in response to demand from East of England businesses, gauged at a series of meetings with business leaders from across the region.

James Gray, chief executive of inward investment agency, East of England International (EEI) is particularly excited about the prospect of a doorstep to doorstep link with ‘the capital of Silicon Valley,’ San Jose.

EEI has attracted eight Silicon Valley companies into the region since it set up a dedicated marketing operation in San Jose in 2002, and Gray hopes that a direct air link could boost that number significantly.

EEI’s US office has also spearheaded a number of transatlantic university collaborations between Silicon Valley and Silicon Fen.

EEI has worked closely with Maxjet over the past six months to put the airline in touch with key decision makers around the region, helping it to gauge demand on the UK side of its operations.

"The general consensus within the technology community, including biotech is that they want to get to Silicon Valley and San Jose fits the bill. A route into San Francisco would still leave our companies an hour drive to get to where they need to be.

"With the technology, wireless communications and biotech communities in California so buoyant, it is a very good time to be establishing a direct transport link."

The mayor of San Jose is understood to be taking close personal interest in the creation of a flight from his city into London and is believed to favour Stansted because of its proximity to the East of England business clusters.

Mineta San Jose Intern-ational Airport is undergoing a phase of aggressive expansion and is keen to add a long-haul flight into Europe. It recently launched a direct service to Tokyo, with a service to China on the cards.

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