Cornwall has been catapulted to the forefront of the digital revolution

There are nearly 700 tech companies in Cornwall and they are expanding and recruiting at an extraordinary rate, fast turning the county into the Britain’s new ‘Silicon Valley’ (according to the 2016 Tech Nation report). From AI to the internet of things, cloud-based services, virtual reality and drone filming, the growth of these company’s activities in the county is truly impressive. For the full story please read the article below which appeared today in the Western Morning News.

Roger Mundy, Managing Director, Beardsley Theobalds. 16th March 2017

 

 

County is fast turning into Britain’s new Silicon Valley

From artificial intelligence, to the Internet of Things, cloud-based services, virtual reality or even drone filming, there are more than 680 tech companies in Cornwall supporting more than 1,300 highly paid jobs and all are growing and recruiting at an extraordinary rate.

Cornwall’s fast-growing tech sector is already contributing more than £31 million to the local economy.

With advertised average salaries of £34,367 – almost twice the average salary in Cornwall of £17,340 – this is an industry offering good careers for talented young people keen to stay in the Duchy.

According to the 2016 Tech Nation report, Cornwall is fast becoming Britain’s new Silicon Valley after being named as home to one of the highest growth clusters in the tech industry nationwide – and the Camborne-Pool-Redruth corridor is at the heart of it all.

The Duchy’s ‘California style’ growing digital community was ranked second in the UK in terms of turnover growth, showing a 153% increase.

This was second only to Southampton on 180%, and far exceeding London’s 101% increase.

Deborah Waddell, regional director CBI South West said: “Technology has revolutionised daily life and the relationship between businesses and consumers.

“A major industry in its own right, and an enabler of all industries and sectors, technology is a force for good in businesses’ drive to embrace the digital revolution and Cornwall is well positioned to be a player in this.”

The 2016 Tech Nation report was produced by the Government-funded programme Tech Nation and innovation charity Nesta, and charts the UK’s digital economy.

The report featured local businesses such as Headforwards, Crowdfunder, Sullivan Cuff and Bluefruit Software, as well as Truro & Penwith College and Cornwall College.

Paul Massey is a Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership board member and chairman of the LEP’s employment and skills board.

He is also director of leading Cornish digital business Bluefruit Software, based in the CPR tech corridor, which creates bespoke embedded codes for equipment such as automated NHS dispensers for diabetics or the aerospace industry.

Mr Massey said Bluefruit was expected to grow from seven to 30 staff this year, with the attractiveness of Cornwall playing a huge role in the sector’s growth.

He said: “We are a creative industry and there is a global shortage of skilled employees. It’s an employees’ market so wages are high but not only that, Cornwall offers a great lifestyle which makes living and working down here attractive.”

Toby Parkins, co-founder of Headforwards,a cloud-based software service company, agrees that being in a beautiful part of the world gives his staff – expected to grow in numbers to 100 this year from 25 three years ago – the head space they need to be at their best.

He said: “People might not think so because we’re in Cornwall, but companies here are pioneering some of the latest ideas and technologies. We are much further forward than many firms in the South East or in London which means that for other companies it is an advantage to work with companies in Cornwall.

Talent, a beautiful environment and ideas are behind Cornwall’s growing tech success story. But it would not have happened without the physical infrastructure and superfast broadband.

Almost 95% of the county has access to superfast broadband and bandwidth speed in the CPR tech corridor is faster than in central London.

Gary Barter, founder of Hertzian, an artificial intelligence start-up based in Truro, which will also expand from seven to 12 staff this year and up to 25 next year, said Cornwall had a huge pool of untapped talent at its disposal which represents a massive opportunity for further growth for the sector.

The Falmouth University graduate who came out of the Launchpad programme, added: “Five years ago you couldn’t study software writing or coding in Cornwall.

“There was nothing in schools but in some ways we have a blank canvas which we can play to our advantage.”

Paul Clark, CEO and founder of Packet Ship, a tech company in Falmouth which supplies on-demand TV software and technology to the leisure and hospitality industry in 50 countries, added: “There’s now a really tight relationship between businesses and education providers. For many years Cornwall was left to its own devices so we had to plug the skills gap ourselves.

“It’s the great Cornish thing of doing it yourself because no-one will do it for you.

Mr Barter added: “It’s a good time for young people who see what’s happening in the county in term of new technologies. As an industry we can make sure that what’s taught in schools and colleges is up to standards and will provide young people with jobs.”

LumiraDx Care Solutions UK works closely with the NHS and designs and delivers management solutions for patients living with long-term conditions – from clinical decision support software, to population health data analytics to self-care applications and education.

The Camborne firm has doubled in size over the last 12 months to 50 staff and is looking to grow some more this year.

Michael Barritt, the company managing director, said: “There is an outdated perception that technical and creative don’t go hand in hand.

“Our teams consist of cross functional creative and technical staff who come together to create products which are not only technically brilliant but are also visually exciting, easy-to-use and designed with the user in mind.

“Cornwall is well networked and has some amazing support infrastructure for both established and new businesses including coaching and mentoring opportunities, business events, some funded training and development and regional speaker-led and awards events.”

The talent pool in Cornwall has been further supported by the different companies and organisations such as Software Cornwall or Agile on the Beach, who work closely with schools and colleges in the county to ensure there is a ‘pipeline’ of coders, engineers, and software experts coming out of the Cornish education system to feed the needs of Cornwall ‘s own Silicon Valley.

Mr Clark added: “Education is a core part of this pipeline of talents. It starts with our involvement as an industry in primary schools and getting the younger children interested. Then it develops in secondary schools and colleges. We also work very closely with Falmouth University so what will pop out at the end of the ‘pipeline’ in six or seven years’ time are the tech engineers of tomorrow.

“Awareness of the industry and its potential is vital and so is getting local young people and their parents to understand the career opportunities on offer right here in Cornwall.”

Mr Barritt from LumiraDx Care Solutions, added: “There is a great opportunity for businesses to work more closely with colleges and universities to ensure that we harness the talent which is grown here in Cornwall.

“We recently employed a team of Year 2 students at Falmouth University to support the discovery and development of a new healthcare app.

“Supporting apprenticeship schemes and work placements for talented young developers, designers and innovators is essential to keep business here fresh to new ideas and energy that many emerging graduates can bring.”

Cornwall’s tech sector is fast outgrowing the office space that can accommodate its growing workforce.

Superfast broadband and next generation fibre infrastructure is key to an industry hungry for data bandwidth, yet, more than any internet capability, it’s the physical office space that firms in Cornwall’s Silicon Corridor need most.

All entrepreneurs admit that the investment by the EU, the Government and Cornwall Council to build the Pool Innovation Centre and others have been essential to accommodate the sector’s rampant growth – but many feel more of the same needs to happen over the next few years or Cornwall risks losing its edge.

“Our industry’s main issue is physical buildings,” concedes Mr Clark. “Which is slightly ironic considering what we all do. But the current facilities are just about enough and certainly not enough if you look at the current growth predictions.”

Cornwall’s Tech Sector is helping change the bucolic image people may have of the Duchy. It is a sector enjoying a growth spurt and is actively working with local schools to develop the software experts of tomorrow.