Cornwall is becoming the ‘California of the UK’ after being named as home to one of the highest growth clusters in the tech industry nationwide.
Cornwall’s 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 with 101 per cent.
The 2016 Tech Nation report is produced by the Government-funded programme Tech Nation and innovation charity Nesta, and charts the UK’s digital economy.
Growth in the digital economy is a key focus of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) because of its potential to create high quality, well paid jobs.
Previous investment in broadband has already made Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly one of the best connected regions in Europe and the LEP wants to build on this strength as part of its ‘future economy’ ambitions.
According to the report, the clusters of tech business in places such as Truro, Camborne and Redruth are employing 1,380 staff and contributing £31 million to the local economy every year. The advertised average salary is £34,367, which is almost twice the average salary in Cornwall of £17,340.
Paul Massey is a LEP Board Member and Chair of the LEP’s Employment and Skills Board. He is also director of leading Cornish digital business Bluefruit Software, which featured in the Tech Nation report.
Paul said: “Cornwall stands out in this report as the second highest growth area in the UK for digital industries, and is fast becoming the California of the UK as the place to be for tech-based businesses.
“Cornwall’s digital tech turnover grew 32 per cent faster than the rest of the UK and a lot of this growth has been driven by the European Union funding available to support Cornish businesses, dramatically improved superfast connectivity, a highly collaborative tech community in the region, and the improving skills of the available workforce, which the LEP is determined to grow.”
The 2016 Tech Nation report was compiled with input from Software Cornwall, a network of local tech businesses with a key objective of improving the visibility and awareness of Cornwall’s tech industries cluster locally and nationally.
The report features local businesses such as Headforwards, Crowdfunder, Sullivan Cuff and Bluefruit Software, as well as Truro & Penwith College and Cornwall College.
Software Cornwall director Belinda Waldock said: “A rural location has traditionally been seen as a weakness. Cornwall is dissolving that urban myth, driven by superfast connectivity, a pipeline for delivering tech skills and a strong collaborative community.”
The report also highlights some of the challenges facing the digital sector in Cornwall. A lack of available skills tops the list for 68% of local tech businesses, with close to half saying limited access to finance and low awareness of the sector were other constraints.
Paul Massey said the LEP was working to tackle all these key issues: “Skills are a massive issue for businesses across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly especially in new and emerging growth sectors. That’s why the LEP has been given greater control over local employment and skills funding so that we can make sure businesses are getting the skills they need. Software Cornwall is a good example of how the industry can work with schools and colleges to influence what is taught.
“The LEP is also working to improve careers advice in schools so that young people are more aware of the opportunities available, and we want to develop far more apprenticeships and vocational opportunities as a route to highly skilled, well-paid jobs.
“Finance is another big constraint which is why we are working on a £60 million investment package that would be funded by the EU and provide a mixture of loans and equity funding to businesses across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.”
Paul said his own business, through its work with Software Cornwall, was also helping to plug the skills gap by supporting local coding clubs for children and offering work experience and apprenticeship schemes.
Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership
The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership drives activity to support business growth, create jobs and help people realise their potential.
We are led by local business people working together with Cornwall Council and the Council of the Isles of Scilly to set priorities for how our economy should grow.
Our role is to help decide how best to invest over £1 billion of public, private and European funds in the local economy by 2020.
We want to build on our traditional strengths in bedrock industries such as tourism, agriculture, food and marine and pioneer new industries that make the most of our special environment, such as renewable energy, agricultural technology and the digital economy.
Our guiding principle is making sure the culture, communities and environment of Cornwall and Isles of Scilly remain special and unique.