A recent report commissioned by Tech South West, the South West Tech Analysis 2022 Report, highlights just what a special region we live in, in so many ways.
The South West, and we’re not just talking Devon here, but spanning Gloucester, Wiltshire, Dorset and Cornwall, hosts a globally and nationally recognised array of tech specialisms spanning GreenTech, MarineTech and AgriTech, to HealthTech and Life Sciences, Creative, FinTech, Deep Tech and Robotics.
To give you an idea of exactly what is happening in the region the report states,
“Bristol is fast becoming one of the world’s most dynamic and exciting tech hubs. The first spacecraft to take off from the UK will launch from Cornwall Spaceport in 2022. Devon has twin science parks and universities, with globally recognised expertise in MarineTech, Environmental and Climate Science. Somerset is the UK’s leading Nuclear technology hub. Bournemouth and Dorset have strengths in Digital and AgriTech, Wiltshire in Life Sciences and Defence and Gloucestershire is world-renowned for its Cybersecurity capability. There is tech prowess across the board.”
The idea of the report is to highlight exactly what is going on within the region and for people to understand and celebrate it, that an exciting, vibrant and forward-thinking tech cluster is being built through collaboration and community, focusing on tackling the world’ biggest problems.
Mapping out and understanding the existing ecosystem has never been so important as we seek to understand the investment and growth opportunities available and how, with its diverse set of businesses and capabilities, the South West can be a national and European leader in advanced technology. And with this, the scope for expansion is huge. The expected growth being from £11bn to £19.2bn in just five years, creating a 74% increase in tech jobs to over 125,000 new jobs.
The forecasted growth would build on what is already a key strength for the region. With a tech sector GVA per capita of £1,943, the South West sits second in the UK when compared to other regions outside London and the South East, with only East of England ranking higher.
The two problems that are associated with this growth are funding and access to talent.
There is an increasing amount of funding available across the South West, which can create significant opportunities if it can successfully be accessed by the tech sector. Availability and effectiveness of funding can be enhanced through improving the efficiency of deployment, matched funding, identifying opportunities, signposting for investors and investees, and raising awareness and engagement of options across equity investment, debt funding and grants.
The new £200m regional fund could represent a catalytic opportunity for investment activity in the South West.
- The South West accounts for the largest proportion of the UK’s lending to SMEs outside London and the South East
- Bristol businesses are the primary recipients of investment funding raised in the region
- The investor community in the South West does not always have direct experience of the tech sectors
Growth will be further accelerated with a larger and more diverse talent pool within the region, alongside a clear strategy to grow, attract and retain more people to the sector.
- There are 169,800 students at the region’s 14 universities, including 19,500 tech and engineering students, but the talent pool will need to grow significantly to satisfy forecast growth, from entry-level to senior roles.
- Courses and qualifications need to be more aligned to the needs of the tech sector.
- Work needs to be done to promote the sector, and the many tech specialisms and roles, to potential employees, including students, in the South West and beyond the region. The range of tech specialisms makes this harder, but is actually a positive attribute of developing a career in tech in the region.
- The increased adoption of remote and hybrid working provides opportunities to attract people to the region because of the high quality of life, but also creates risks around people working for companies outside the region.
- The competitive tech labour market is inflating salaries
- The impact of a shortage of expertise is significant for startups
- The South West is well positioned geographically to attract the senior talent it requires
- Colleges are exhibiting strong business engagement and providing practically orientated courses
“I don’t need many dedicated data scientists, I need engineers, specifically information engineers. I need people with realistic expectations about what they’re going to be doing. For every academic computer scientist PhD, I need 100 or maybe even 1000 people with composite skills.”
Charles Ewen, Director & CIO, Met Office
A short note about Exeter
Exeter is a thriving tech hub and at the forefront of climate research and was heavily involved in the recent COP26 Climate Summit.
The MetOffice based in Exeter has also invested £1.2bn in the next generation of supercomputers in a bid to improve weather and climate forecasting and inform Government policy on climate change.
The University of Exeter is also at the forefront of Environmental Science/Data Science in the world, with five of the top 21 climate scientists in the UK based there. The University’s Institute for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (IDSAI) is globally recognised and provides a hub for data intensive science and AI activity within the region. A £6.25m collaborative Climate and Environment Social Science Programme is also being led by the universities of Exeter and Surrey for carbon neutrality by 2050.
SETsquared Exeter, a part of SETsquared, has been ranked as the Global #1 University Business Incubator, and has a base at University of Exeter. It is an enterprise partnership between the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey and Cardiff. It is a business incubator which works towards social and economic benefit, focusing on regional innovation and building up the South West’s economy. Through the University of Exeter’s campus in Cornwall, SETsquared is also active in Cornwall.
Exeter College’s new Institute of Technology Digital and Data Centre aims to help the South West drive growth and widen opportunities.
Exeter Science Park, a centre for STEMM activity, provides incubation, grow on space and support for businesses specialising in STEMM and is another hub for Climate/Environmental research. The Park has also opened a £5m STEMM centre, which is set to support over 100 jobs.
I feel that this report is key to highlighting what tremendous opportunities are available, and that we as a region are making, putting us on the map both globally and nationally. A region that people wouldn’t necessarily associate with tech and certainly not the other diverse fields that are highlighted, we’ve moved a long way from the cream-tea and bucket and spade image. (although they are still available and to be recommended.)