Bristol and Bath singled out as globally-significant technology cluster in major national report
The Bristol and Bath region is highlighted as having an internationally-significant and fast-growing high tech sector in an influential new report.
The high tech, creative and digital media cluster is showcased in a new Centre for Cities/McKinsey & Company report, which recommends more Government investment in key clusters to stimulate growth in the UK economy.
Stand-out strengths of Bristol and Bath’s cluster are its diverse combination of industries and strong networks, according to the report, which highlights the region as an in-depth case study.
Professor Joe McGeehan, chair of inward investment agency Invest Bristol & Bath and special advisor to Toshiba, says:
“It is this diversity of connected sectors, skilled workforce, world leading academic research and brilliant quality of life that make Bristol and Bath so distinctive and attractive. Industries ranging from high tech to creative and digital media, and from robotics to aerospace, work collaboratively to drive innovation. Major global players are increasingly setting up operations in the Bristol and Bath region as they seek to benefit from this offering as part of their plan for business growth.”
The rich cluster encompasses electronics manufacturers, animation and computer graphics firms, as well as digital start-ups and university spin-outs. This ‘melting pot’ of companies ranges from larger players such as Aardman Animations, HP and Toshiba to small 3D printing and robotics technology start-ups.
Specialist hubs such as Bristol & Bath Science Park, Watershed and the Engine Shed are also highlighted as a vital component of this thriving cluster, along with networks which connect talent, companies, universities and investors across sectors.
The news comes on the day when local digital and high tech start-ups are taking part in a pitching competition to national investors at the Engine Shed (July 2). In the evening, 200 business leaders, influencers and investors will gather for the annual networking event of SETsquared, which was named last week as Europe’s top university business incubator and second best in the world.
Clusters are a major contributor to economic growth, an important source of well-paid jobs and also bring wider business advantages such as a strong understanding of customer demand and support for innovation. As a result, clusters are well placed to attract investment and talent, according to the report.
Inward investment agency Invest Bristol & Bath has recognised the strength of the cluster, securing a flurry of investment and interest from national and international high-tech firms wanting to establish a base in the area.
Chinese telecoms giant Huawei is setting up an R&D facility in Bristol, while Somo, the largest independent mobile solutions company, has chosen Bristol to set up a specialist engineering centre, and digital solutions company Kainos has also invested in opening a new office in the city. Meanwhile, leading online takeaway service JUST EAT has just announced it is expanding its technology development by opening a new specialist hub in Bristol.
The Centre for Cities report also highlights a range of barriers to the development of a successful cluster, including the challenge of securing recognition on a global stage.
Joe McGeehan adds:
“Just over a year ago, we established Invest Bristol & Bath, the area’s inward investment agency to promote the region at a national and international level. This move is already paying dividends as Invest Bristol & Bath, which is backed by funding from the Government’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, has created over 700 jobs in the past year.”
David Sproxton, executive chairman and co-founder of Aardman, said:
“It is excellent to see a report focusing on the importance of industrial clusters as powerhouses for the economy, and highlighting Bristol and Bath for its undoubted strengths across the high tech, creative and digital-media space. We definitely need to raise the profile of UK clusters so they can continue to compete on the global stage.”
Bonnie Dean, chief executive of Bristol & Bath Science Park, says:
“It is the collaborative approach of Bristol and Bath’s technologists, business leaders and academics, combined with its rich network of interlinked, complimentary sectors that make the tech cluster here particularly successful. The region has excelled in creating a lively ecosystem of enterprise, where knowledge, expertise and ideas are shared, innovative thinking is stimulated and business success is accelerated.”
A vibrant and innovative cluster, Bristol & Bath’s tech industry is producing animated films, the latest breakthroughs in analysing ‘big data’ and the world’s smallest drones.
Three of the 12 high-growth, globally-significant UK clusters identified in the report are based in the South West – they are the region’s high tech, aerospace and tourism sectors.