Cornwall's tech sector: gut feelings, hard facts, momentum
Those of us lucky enough to work with Cornish businesses have known for a while that change is in the air: businesses anticipating, disrupting and futureproofing, businesses moving away from old models, using next-level technology, organising themselves differently.
We’ve seen this ourselves and encountered it in our programmes, not least Digital Transformation.
Now, thanks to a major report by Tech Southwest, we know this amounts to more than anecdotes. The boom in the tech sector – in the south-west generally, but Cornwall in particular – is a matter of statistical fact.
Cornwall's tech sector is the fastest growing in the south-west
Tech Southwest says the south-west’s tech sector is on track to grow to almost £20bn a year by 2026, and Cornwall’s tech sector is the fastest growing in the south-west, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 17.9% forecasted by 2026.
The report also reveals that the south-west is the 5th largest tech sector of the twelve major regions in the UK and is set to become a leader in environmental tech and Agri-tech, with growth in the region creating 120k new jobs.
cornish businesses have the power to shape disruption
The region owes much of its buoyancy to the range of smaller businesses operating in new ways, often with the help of our own Digital Transformation programme.
As David Tansley, Vice Chair of Deloitte (the report’s main sponsor) says:
Innovation is no longer an option. To stay ahead in business and as a region, technology needs to move at an exponential rate and those that embrace it will have the power to not only shape disruption for strategic advantage but deliver solutions on a global scale.
This is key not just to the growth of Cornwall’s tech sector, but to the thinking which underpins Digital Transformation, whose Programme Manager, Dr Nathan Jeffery, explains:
This report is a brilliant showcase of what we already know: that Cornwall has the fastest-growing tech sector in the UK. Through Digital Transformation, we’re working to support the growth of Cornish tech companies through digitisation, recruitment and training. We’re proud to be collaborating with key partners such as Software Cornwall and organisations like the Digital Skills Partnership to deliver this for Cornwall.
The collaboration Nathan mentions is crucial. By their nature, many tech start-ups exist and work independently of each other, and of business more widely. It’s a symptom of two years of restrictions, of course, but also of how such companies operate anyway (“the tech sector’s invisibility and dispersion,” as the report puts it).
fibrehub is the home of digital transformation
This is why Digital Transformation’s home – FibreHub – is so important. Based between Pool and Camborne, it opened in 2021 and offers workspace and meeting facilities for software, tech and digital businesses. Longer term, there’s an ambition for FibreHub to become FibrePark: a microcosm of contemporary Cornish industry and a collaborative antidote to that “invisibility and dispersion.”
businesses adopting digital now will ensure longevity
This sense of a physical progression and growth chimes with Digital Transformation’s thinking around business development. As the report highlights, this is very much the time for Cornish businesses to secure a sustainable, successful economy based on digital excellence to ensure they’re not left behind.
One such company who are reflecting Cornwall’s high growth tech sector is Digital Transformation’s client xigxag, who have recently been ranked in the top ten of the UK’s tech start-ups by Tech Nation. The Rising Stars award acknowledges xigxag’s unique proposition in modernising audio and e-books through the xigxag app, offering users the first-ever fully integrated listen-and-read experience, at an affordable price without a subscription.
Digital Transformation helps promote and facilitate such change by working with non-digital as well as digital businesses. Acting as a kind of matchmaker and go-between, it ensures businesses in need of particular digital solutions are – thanks to the knowledge of the Digital Innovators and through the forthcoming ‘digital marketplace’ – introduced to companies well placed to support them and provide solutions.
Positive policy outcomes could generate over 125,000 jobs
While Digital Transformation is clearly playing its part in the sector’s growth, there is still plenty to do, much of it, crucially, at a national policy level. Toby Parkins, Chair of Tech Southwest and founder of Headforwards, is clear that the next steps taken will be pivotal, and that the report’s positivity about current and future progress needs to be backed by action to consolidate and strengthen the sector. Discussing the whole south-west, he says:
Policy decisions will determine whether we over- or underachieve. The right policies will increase the probability of achieving the higher growth projections. Most businesspeople know some policy decisions have created the conditions for businesses to thrive. There have also been decisions that have not contributed to as much growth as would have been possible … Now is the moment. Which other sector in the region can point to growth that, if achieved, can create over 125,000 new roles?
Businesses across the south-west must step forward and, collaboratively with Government, help create the policies that will make a significant difference to our region.
If yours is a business looking to make a digital leap forward, or one that can help others do so, why not get in touch with DT now to talk about joining Cornwall’s tech revolution?