Can we build an English Southern Coast digital ‘powerhouse’?

In an intriguing look at the country’s post-Brexit digital potential, a new report lays out practical steps to creating a non-London, but still Southern, tech area

Posted 25 September 2017 at 9:26am by

The Science and Innovation Audit (SIA) says the South of England could be the backbone of the country’s post-Brexit digital economy.

Dubbing the area from Dorset to Kent and from Berkshire to the Isle of Wight ‘Innovation South’, the term covers eight counties and has a total economic output of £225.3bn, 13.7% of the UK’s overall economic output, as well as a population base of nearly nine million people.

And as a result, the government should put effort into supporting the long-term solidifying of the area in to a potential world-leading tech and science hub, concentrating on “the region’s capacity to commercially exploit its excellence” in digital communications, cybersecurity, big data analytics, photonics and quantum computing.

For example, says a new report on GOV.UK, the four industries of what is claimed to be ‘connected digital’, marine and maritime, bioscience and advanced engineering are particularly strong in the so-called ‘Innovation South’ region.

The South also benefits from a highly qualified workforce, great national and international transport links, many areas of natural beauty, a wealth of universities, and an incumbent spread of local presences of global tech companies already.

“The UK has a world-leading digital economy and a proud history of digital innovation. Innovation South is key to that – a globalised region, with high-value, digitally enabled innovation; a powerhouse of research strengths; a strong commercialisation culture; and dynamic businesses and industries to match.

“In the story of the UK’s digital success, a significant chapter belongs to Innovation South,” predicts the study, commissioned in 2016 by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

That study has been created by a consortium of 94 partners including businesses, six LEP areas, Southern Coast and south of London Home County universities and local authorities.

“While others may share strengths in individual technologies, Innovation South stands out for the number and breadth of digital-enabling technologies, and their widespread application,” concludes the audit.

However, non-Southern business owners and digital leaders needn’t gnash their teeth – the audit is actually part of a nation-wide set of responses to the Department’s call for study, with other parts of the country, like Scotland and Liverpool, also having been studied.