Silicon Valley, the high-tech hub of the Bay Area in California, is not just a place – it is a brand synonymous with innovation. Countless household tech companies have been founded, ballooned in size and sold for eye-watering sums of money within its geography.
While it benefited from a number of factors, including an impressive stack of venture capital in its early days a huge influence on its exponential growth is the clustering effect of having innovative firms like Google, Facebook and Hewlett Packard all located within a stone’s throw of each other. Add in the fact that Stanford University provides a host of students emerging with ideas for scale-ups, and you have a thriving circular economy that has influenced our world for decades.
There is absolutely no reason why the West Coast of the UK cannot replicate Silicon Valley’s success up and down the breadth of the country if we too embrace the power of clustering.
Crucially, clustering could also help the UK government deliver on its levelling-up agenda, especially in the burgeoning knowledge economy.
Currently, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc feeds and accelerates the growth of many of these UK based firms, thanks in part to having world-leading research universities on their doorsteps. For example, in Cambridge, life sciences and deep tech are the dominant sectors across the campuses, and in Oxford, life sciences, physical sciences, energy, space, deep tech, environmental and autonomous engineering exist in clusters across the city’s various campuses. Milton Keynes is renowned for its focus on advanced manufacturing and financial or Fintech software.
But Oxford and Cambridge are far from the only areas in the UK which have world-class education institutions nearby that companies could look to attract talent from, or venture capitalists could look to find scale-up business ideas from.
The South-West with Bath, Bristol, Exeter and Cardiff universities is perfectly positioned to foster innovation and accelerate growth as we enter a new era of “grow back better”.
Sites like Gravity, a new 616-acre development campus near Bridgwater, are fertile ground for startups; ideally located and connected with road and rail, accessible and attractive to university graduates. Designed to offer not only sustainable and clean commercial space but flexible hub campus settings so that knowledge sharing can happen and conducive to “live, work, play” lifestyle in a low carbon and sustainable way.
We stand on the threshold of a new cleaner and greener future where vehicle electrification, the digital agenda and a newly developed need for work/life balance are likely to become the key driver in our new economic future. But this future needs to be inclusive and break down old pre-conceptions about the UK’s work force geography.
For instance, London was a third more productive than the rest of the UK in 2018. That’s far too deep a divide and implies the wealth being produced by this country is not being shared equally. Imagine instead if we grow to a future where every region becomes its own industrial and commercial eco system. Clustering can help us do just that,
A recent Centre for Cities report recommended that if the government wants to actually level-up the UK, then economically weaker performing cities need to become clusters of high-value activities.
That’s exactly what sites like Gravity are aiming to do – attract innovative companies to areas that have had their potential to host world-class industry ignored for far too long.
If we want to level-up, then we need to create many more clusters across the country then we need to build more smart campus sites, like Gravity, with the infrastructure and proximity to a talented workforce to conduct research, spark innovation, and bring products to market.
The Challenge for a West Coast- UK Cluster
The challenge is to find a location that accommodates flexibility and understands the inherent needs tech companies require to flourish, and simultaneously compete on the world stage, this is currently being met at Gravity.
Gravity is now talking to occupiers about their future commercial property needs in this exciting and unique proposition to help build a Silicon Somerset cluster in a sustainable and collaborative environment with all the commercial advantages of excellent infrastructure too.