Pursuing growth with Innovation Exeter

Innovation Exeter city centre

Exeter City Council is aiming for growth in one of the UK’s foremost regional economies through the Innovation Exeter programme, as Richard Ball explains

Independent studies have identified Exeter’s economy as outperforming larger cities in the UK, confirming its positive regional economic impact. As the powerhouse of its own sub-region, the city – and its wider economy – is looking to build on that success to create higher quality and better-paid employment, benefiting both businesses and residents, and attracting and retaining talent and investment. The acknowledged characteristics of Exeter’s city-based economy are:

  • High levels of economic success;
  • High-level research and education institutions;
  • Knowledge-based activity;
  • Effective transfer of knowledge to business;
  • A diverse industry base.

Equally important are the nationally acclaimed education sector, vibrant cultural and extensive leisure opportunities, and good communication, infrastructure, air, rail and road transport links to other economic hubs. All also reinforce the wide engagement and impact of the success and growth of the city and the wider region. Working with strong leadership from a number of individuals and organisations around an economic vision, Exeter is supported by proactive networks and partnerships.

At the centre of the next stage in driving the growth of Exeter’s economy is Innovation Exeter, a programme aiming to create opportunities for new business formation and growth and higher paid employment through innovation, and developing existing and potential business clusters.

Innovation Exeter – establishing Exeter as a leading, attractive, knowledge-based economy

Exeter is a major economic engine in the south-west of England with a credible track record of growth, even through recent difficult times. In the top 10 of growing cities and with its workforce having the lowest proportion with no qualifications in the UK, Exeter has seen a step-change in its economic performance. Growth is being pursued hand in hand with major housing, infrastructure and leisure projects to ensure successful and sustainable development of the city and its interdependent hinterland. What has been clear is the importance of agility and of public and private partners agreeing and working to a clear, comprehensive, proactive and responsive plan with frequent monitoring and a focus on risk mitigation.

The overall growth programme is geared to the creation of some 26,000 jobs over the next 10-12 years. It is building on the area’s strengths in the environment and data science, agritech, health and professional services. The programme will also aim to improve the working and living environment to support and enable transformational growth and raise productivity.

Innovation Exeter has six themes:

  • A brilliantly located science park with incubation and business support services and access to investment funds;
  • Research excellence to support and promote innovation from the global top 100 University of Exeter and other organisations, such as the Met Office;
  • A focus on the area’s strengths, data analytics and exploitation of data including the Exeter City Futures
  • Initiative establishing the city and its surrounding area as an ideal testbed for evaluating the problems and challenges facing urban areas and their interdependent hinterland;
  • Strategic investment in skills to support innovation with data analytics a central theme for addressing these skills in schools, colleges and universities, as well as in the workforce;
  • Investment in the local environment to support growth through coordinated housing, transport and local infrastructure development including the recently announced new Garden Village near the city;
  • Maintaining a strong supportive partnership with an aligned investment strategy to sustain and improve the environment for business growth and investment.

Exeter University – placed 35th in global influential rankings

The University of Exeter has reinforced its position amongst leading universities both nationally and internationally, according to the latest influential global rankings. The Leiden University World Rankings 2016 position Exeter 35th internationally, 8th in Europe and 6th in the UK. The rankings provide a measurement of the scientific impact and performance of more than 800 major universities worldwide and their involvement in scientific collaboration. According to the latest rankings, the University of Exeter is:

  • 16th in the world in life and earth sciences (2nd in the UK);
  • 35th in the world in biomedical and health sciences (8th in the UK);
  • 43rd in the world for physical sciences and engineering (2nd in the UK);
  • 69th in the world in social sciences and humanities (10th in the UK).

Exeter Science Park – to be at the centre of the next phase of growth

Exeter Science Park is set to be the cornerstone of this knowledge-based economy which has been achieving unprecedented growth rates. The new park caters for the full spectrum of organisations from start-ups and spin-outs to the second stage funded companies through to the largest multinational. Located on Junction 29 of the M5 and the A30/303, the park occupies the perfect location in a grassland campus setting with immediate access to the motorway and trunk road networks, rail lines to London and the Midlands and Exeter International Airport.

The most recent major investment relating to the park includes the new Met Office computer, part of a £97m project. The first two phases are now operational at the Met Office’s HQ on the nearby Exeter Business Park. Taken together, they are six times faster than the previous high-performance computer and represent the largest operational supercomputer platform in Europe. The final phase takes the enhanced processing power of the ‘supercomputer’ to three million calculations per second for every man, woman and child on the planet.

Adjacent to the main computer hall is a “collaboration building” aimed at working with businesses to develop commercial applications for data. The location of the most powerful weather computer in the world in Exeter is a huge vote of confidence, both in the Met Office and in the city, as the place to do high-performance computing and big data analytics.

If you would like to know more about this exciting programme and the success of the city then please contact Richard Ball.


Richard Ball

Assistant Director – Economy

Exeter City Council


Please note: this is a commercial profile


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