An Ecosystem to Accelerate Growth

8th March, 2018

Cornwall’s natural geography and economic landscape is perfect for business clustering, allowing like-minded businesses to form part of a collaborative business community. This gives the Superfast digital ecosystem a physical proximity, allowing smaller enterprises to enjoy some of the economies of scale that are usually reserved for larger companies: easy access to supply chains, information channels, skilled workers, networking opportunities alongside the potential to reduce rental costs and commute times. Not only does this help streamline the operation of individual businesses, it promotes collaboration through human interaction with events like Agile on the Beach which brings locally based talent together with speakers from across the world to share ideas in an inspirational coastal setting. In 2017, the event attracted 48 speakers from across the world, including the USA, Russia, Israel, Netherlands, Germany, Turkey, Poland and Romania, as well as local speakers from Cornwall and agile enthusiasts from across the UK. 

Cornwall’s digital capabilities make the region a dynamic destination for tech-enabled companies to cluster, encouraging forward thinking working practice. This facility, alongside physical infrastructure sites such as Goonhilly Earth Station, Cornwall Airport Newquay and Wave Hub, has made Cornwall the UK’s springboard for six distinct tech sectors: MarineTech, SpaceTech, Aerospace, HealthTech, CreativeTech, and AgriTech. Also catalysing the growth in these sectors is the strength of the supply chains alongside the availability of unrivalled talent and a collaborative community.

Cornwall Airport Newquay

Multiple other industries thrive alongside these six sectors, able to access and participate in a diverse, supportive business community, driving rapid development opportunities and positioning the region as the nexus of technological advancements and collaborative working practice.

Specifically, each sector has a number of crown jewels, which catalyse and promote prosperity. For AgriTech businesses, the driving force is Cornwall’s deep and rich history in Agriculture, already renowned as a leading agri-food producer – the region is driving a new economy of AgriTech. The Agri-Tech Cornwall project is a unique asset to the region, a £10m initiative to grow the AgriTech sector and increase business engagement with research, development and innovation.

A leader of educational capital for the CreativeTech sector is Falmouth University, rated as one of the UK’s top Arts universities. Providing world class opportunities in teaching and learning within the creative and digital media fields, the university yields a large number of entrepreneurs who are staying in Cornwall to establish and grow their businesses as well as producing unrivalled talent skilled for the creative industries.

Cornwall’s HealthTech ecosystem is also delivering significant benefits in the region. A growing number of indigenous businesses working in the health technology sector, alongside an increasing appetite from overseas companies looking to access the UK market are attracted to the region. A single NHS Trust, one Clinical Commissioning Group and one local authority makes gaining access to the health and care system in Cornwall relatively simpler than in other, more crowded regions and cities. The region provides unique opportunities to work with projects such as Smartline, a research project run in a partnership led by the University of Exeter with Coastline Housing Ltd, Cornwall Council and Volunteer Cornwall to monitor domestic environments, gather opinion from participants and use the collected data to design better systems for homes in the future. 

Another example is EPIC (Ehealth Productivity & Innovation in Cornwall & Isles of Scilly), a collaborative project, led by the University of Plymouth in partnership with Creative England, aiming to improve the use of technology in health and social care and offering access to grant funding for businesses covering a broad range of technologies. These and other exciting projects are taking Cornwall forward into a healthier future where human health is recognised as fundamental to business success.  

As for SpaceTech, Cornwall’s Goonhilly Earth Station, the UK’s gateway to space, supports nine universities and has been awarded Enterprise Zone Status by the UK government offering numerous benefits and opportunities to businesses. Likewise, Cornwall Airport Newquay offers the UK’s only aerospace enterprise zone – Aerohub – the best location in Europe for aerospace businesses.  The existing cluster at the Aerohub site includes MRO companies, flight training and UAV. There are numerous benefits to being located at the Aerohub site including access to one of the UK’s longest runways, hangar space, funding programmes, business rate relief, uncongested, unrestricted airspace and the largest planning free development site in the UK. Cornwall is also a potential site for the UK’s first Spaceport.

Supporting RD&I in the region is the AeroSpace Cornwall programme, helping companies innovate – aiming to create highly skilled jobs in Cornwall and stimulating the growth of the industry in the region. Forging links with key academic institutions and businesses, this is a partnership between the public sector and private industry with direct links to Further and Higher Education and offers match funding for projects with capital purchases and salaries, plus mentoring and support for collaborative RD&I initiatives.  

Falmouth Docks

For MarineTech businesses this dynamic coastal region provides unrivalled testing facilities. The COAST laboratory at Plymouth University offers the perfect environment for physical model testing – a flexible facility with the capability to generate short and long-crested waves. Cornwall is also home to Wave Hub, the world’s largest and most technologically advanced site for testing and developing offshore renewable energy technology. Just off the coast at Hayle, Cornwall, the test grid has wave climate monitoring, one of the best wave resources in Europe and a specialist team for support. The development of Offshore and Marine Technology is supported by the wider regeneration of Hayle Harbour and the Hayle Marine Renewables Business Park, which has quayside access to the sea and offers state of the art office and industrial accommodation close to the town’s amenities plus the convenience of the A30.

FabTest, an award-winning test site situated within Falmouth Harbour, aims to provide a fast, flexible, low risk and low-cost solution for the testing of marine energy technologies, components, moorings and deployment procedures adjacent to extensive dock facilities and offering access to deep water connection points. Other options are Fowey Harbour, which is accessible in all weather, and the large, multi-functional, Truro Port. Together they cover everything from front-line logistics and monitoring to research operations. Supply chain networks like the Marine Offshore Renewables Group (MOR) and the Cornwall Marine Network (CMN) are always on hand. Furthermore, there are unique funding opportunities within the region for MarineTech businesses as well as access to a steady stream of highly qualified marine renewable and engineering graduates, many of whom are educated in the region and making Cornwall a world-class location for marine renewable energy technologies to thrive. 

The rise of Cornwall’s reputation as a technology centre of excellence is attracting the attention of investors from Angel Networks and non-executive directorships and mentoring. The region is also home to the UK’s number one crowdfunding platform, Crowdfunder and offers a number of sector-led projects with funding and innovation grants which businesses can potentially access. 

The business clusters and enterprise zones are complemented by innovation centres like Tremough, a business acceleration facility embracing the creative, media, eco and environmental science sectors. Likewise, there’s the Pool Innovation Centre – home to an array of businesses, and the Health & Wellbeing Innovation Centre based at Treliske in Truro which welcomes knowledge-based businesses supporting health and wellbeing. Together these kinds of centres give the region a proactive, connected business support network committed to helping businesses succeed and grow. There are a growing number of shared workspaces like Mor in Newquay and The Hive in Bude which offer the potential for independent business owners, freelancers and startups to co-work and collaborate in vibrant locations with breath-taking views.  Businesses in Cornwall, such as 3WhiteHats, Sanders Studios and Crowdfunder, monopolise on Cornwall’s natural landscape, establishing premises that inspire employees and clients alike, gaining enviable views of the coastline. This helps to encourage their teams to balance work and play, keeping creativity fresh by focusing on personal well-being and recognising that the most exciting ideas may appear when employees are able to explore their natural surroundings, rather than spending endless hours at their desks – providing higher levels of motivation, inspiration and break out space to think.  

These are some examples of the many elements and resources that enable entrepreneurs to benefit from Cornwall’s business landscape forming an ecosystem that accelerates business success. After all, the region’s tech turnover growth is at 153% compared to London’s 110%. Just as Nottingham was synonymous with lace-makers, Luton known for hatters and Staffordshire for potteries, Cornwall is famed for its creativity and is increasingly becoming synonymous with techies.

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