Photo by JIM CHAPMAN

 

Over the past two years, Brexit has shook the UK and for a long time, there were fears in the technology and science sectors that the vote would dismantle London from its position of Europe’s tech capital.

However, almost two years on from the vote it seems that England’s capital has managed to retain its title. Despite this, there seems to be a growing trend of tech hubs appearing across the rest of the UK.

Companies and start-ups are slowly starting to pour out of London into these new hubs raising questions of how long London can hold onto this title.

Take Cornwall for example. As one of the UK’s smallest counties, it really does feel like the middle of nowhere, miles from the big cities and civilisation. This makes its position as one of the fastest growing technology sectors in the country quite surprising.

Back in 2010, a project began in Cornwall to introduce fibre optic internet to the remote county and by 2015 the project had covered 95% of Cornwall. This super-fast fibre optic internet combined with a growing software industry has turned Cornwall into an unexpected tech hub.

Cornwall is one of many regions demonstrating a trend in new technology companies and start-ups where they are skipping the high costs of London for the cheaper regions like Cornwall. All these companies need is an internet connection and an office to work so why not move out of the high prices of London to do it?

TechNation report 2017

The county’s new-found identity as a tech capital has led to a new project in which a number of villages near Saltash and in South East Cornwall are set to get superfast broadband as part of a £7.6m investment unveiled by BT. The firm announced that as part of this project superfast broadband would be introduced in over 1,450 houses.

Last year Cornwall was ranked as the second fastest growing technology cluster in the country. This was achieved through a combination of EU funding and the regions new found super internet. Now in 2018, there are technology companies scattered across the region, some bigger organisations like Software Cornwall and Focus Technology leading the way for the rest of them. In fact, Cornwall’s tech sector has managed to grow by 31% in the past 12 months and is predicted to grow even more this year. This is a rate almost double the average growth across the rest of the country.

 

Not only has Cornwall’s technology sector grown but so has its reputation. Toby Parkins, Chairman of Cornwall chamber of commerce, told Truthfal: “people are starting to notice that things are going on. We’ve been running agile on the beach every year it won best agile conference last year, it’s won awards for being one of the best agile conferences globally and has become well known across the country.”

More now than ever, Cornwall’s technology sector is being pushed forward by educational institutes. Falmouth University has been creating a number of technology-based graduates. Most specifically from the success of their recent expansions in gaming courses and a start-up project known as LaunchPad. Graduates who have decided to stick around have helped build Cornwall’s blossoming tech sector, such as the people at Engineered Arts, a company made up of graduates in Penryn who are at the forefront of robotics.

This educational push is also seen in Exeter University’s Penryn campus creating graduates that are now going into many fields throughout science and technology in Cornwall. Exeter Penryn has one of the top Bioscience departments in the country and year after year has created skilled coders and scientists and brought well-known names in science and technology down to Cornwall.

I was at an event in Barcelona and someone asked where I was based, when I told him I was from Cornwall he told me there was this incredible conference there called Agile on the beach and asked if i’d been? And I was like yeah I invented it. (Toby Parkins)

The next step for Cornwall is to try and retain some of these graduates. Tom Telford, Managing Director of 3 White Hats in Falmouth explained: “There is a lot of very experienced fisherman down here, there is not a lot of experienced people in digital services so that is the difficult part.

“It’s not just about home-grown it’s also about finding people from other backgrounds and other sectors of knowledge. There’s just not enough people in Cornwall trained for the digital workplace.”

Engineered Arts testing one of their robots

In 2018 Cornwall is set to not just be involved in technology but now also space exploration. A recent £8.4 million satellite expansion at Goonhilly Earth Station will make it a key player in the future of space exploration and deep space examination. This will allow Goonhilly to operate and manage deep space exploration and will be bringing hundreds of jobs in the science sector to Cornwall.

This is combined with the fact that Cornwall is a possible option for a future UK space station. Newquay is one of five options being considered as a host location for a space station which if chosen will put it at the forefront of space exploration.

As it stands, the technology sector has contributed £39 million to the Cornish economy and created a number of very successful start-up businesses in the last 12 months. There are now nearly 700 technology companies in Cornwall which are supporting more than 1,380 well-paid jobs and all are growing and recruiting at rapid speeds.

One of the things that has made Cornwall’s tech scene so popular is its diversity. Belinda Waldock, co-founder of Software Cornwall told Truthfal: “Cornwall is a fantastic place for tech businesses we have a great community and great diversity of technologies from E-health to fin tech, Games to space tech.”

Penryn Innovation centre

More broadly, the South West has been repeatedly ranked as one of the best regions for technology and considering its cheaper accommodation, fast internet and rapidly growing science and technology sector it would be no surprise if larger companies started to move west to one of these regions.

There is no doubt that London will remain the tech capital of England. The city has and most likely always will hold this title but it is clear that a shift is starting to occur where the technology industry is spreading across the UK. This is not just to the South West but all over the country with technology hubs popping up from Cornwall to Scotland.