What do companies look for in a new business location? For some, it’s all about lower operating costs. For others, it’s the opportunity to tap into specialist talent pools and knowledge networks. And for forward-thinking businesses, it could be the chance to give employees a better quality of life in a beautiful natural environment.
Few places in the UK can offer everything on the list. But a growing number of businesses are finding all this – and much more – in Cornwall. We talked to King’s Service Centre, who have expanded into the region.
King’s Service Centre: delivering world-class IT support from Newquay
A 10-minute drive from Cornwall Airport Newquay or step off the train at Quintrell Downs station, a few miles inland from Cornwall’s rugged north coast and a short walk will bring you to Quintdown Business Park.
Since 2015, this purpose-built office complex has been home to King’s Service Centre (KSC), the IT support operation of King’s College London. Here, a 120-strong team provide 24/7/365 days a year technical and operational support to more than 30,000 students and 8,000 staff at King’s.
King’s is one of London’s most central universities, with four campuses bordering the Thames and one at Denmark Hill, South London. So what brought its IT and operational support teams to Cornwall?
“Our aim is to provide a world-class service to support the university’s strategy, Vision 2029,” says Gareth Wright, Director of IT Services for King’s and Managing Director of King’s Service Centre. “We took this as an opportunity to explore other avenues, due to a high dependency on contract staff in London and the availability of office space to enable the co-location of our IT Support team. Our objective was to create a sustainable support model that would deliver high quality customer service to the university and would address those challenges.”
A veteran of business relocation projects at News Corp and ITV plc, Gareth realised his native Cornwall had a huge amount to offer the King’s IT team, over and above its considerably lower property costs.
A sustainable pipeline of IT skills
When researching the business case for establishing a service centre in the region, for example, he was quickly able to dispel one of his initial concerns: the availability of skilled professionals to deliver both general and specialist IT support.
He identified that there were already people fulfilling similar roles in Cornwall-based organisations, and that there was a strong talent pipeline emerging from vocational IT courses at local schools and colleges – including the Cisco Network Academy at Treviglas Community College in nearby Newquay.
Today, King’s Service Centre works closely with Cornwall College, Newquay Tretherras School and Treviglas to create high-value apprenticeships across a range of IT specialisms. That’s helping to build a sustainable pipeline of skills, not just for King’s Service Centre, but also for other businesses in Cornwall’s blossoming tech sector. For the second year running Cornwall was singled out in the 2018 Tech Nation report for its “impressive growth”.
Super-fast fibre broadband enables collaboration and flexible working
For a remote support operation that’s working daily with customers in London, connectivity was another key consideration. Cornwall’s fibre broadband infrastructure, rolled out across the region under the ERDF-funded Superfast Cornwall programme, makes it possible for King’s Service Centre to provide support and attend meetings remotely using Skype and videoconferencing. It also enables King’s Service Centre to connect to JANET, the high-speed network that connects the UK’s higher education institutions.
And because the fibre coverage extends to more than 95% of addresses in Cornwall, the benefits aren’t just felt at the office.
“That connectivity means our staff can work remotely as well, using Skype, Microsoft Teams and Office 365 to collaborate and get work done” says Gareth. “Work-life balance is a big consideration for us and Cornwall provides the best of both worlds in that respect. That’s definitely a factor that contributes towards happy staff and a great working environment.”
A local support network like no other
For any business seeking to set up an operation in a new location, the availability of local support can make a huge difference. Gareth describes the support available in Cornwall as “unique”, citing the help he received from Invest in Cornwall and other organisations to connect with local recruitment agencies and to negotiate the planning process for the Quintdown Park premises, among other initiatives.
Funding secured through Cornwall Council’s arms-length economic development company also helped with setup and recruitment costs, in turn helping to deliver the results outlined in the business case.
“There’s a fantastic support network in Cornwall to make these business cases happen” Gareth says. “It’s fair to say that without that network in place, the business case wouldn’t have proceeded.”
The right location to deliver on the King’s mission
King’s College London now benefits from a skilled and committed IT and business support team that has had space and scope to grow as the university has expanded. A team that in London was dispersed across five locations now works from a single building in Cornwall, where the open-plan environment fosters collaborative working and problem-solving, further improving the quality of service delivered.
Gareth says. At the same time, the university has been able to reassign the freed-up space in London for teaching and learning, enabling it to provide additional valuable facilities to improve student experience.
Three years on, King’s Service Centre continues to expand the team and deliver additional services from Cornwall, creating more efficiencies for the university and more skilled jobs in the local economy. Its current plan is to expand the team from 120 to 140.
“King’s has a mission to be in service of society, and we’ve been able to fulfil that here,” says Gareth. “By investing in apprenticeships and creating new jobs, we’ve been able to provide opportunities for people in Cornwall who don’t want to have to relocate to Exeter, Bristol or London to develop an IT career with an enterprise the size of King’s.”
If you are interested in finding out how your business can start is journey to Cornwall, get in touch with the team today.
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