Constant reinvention: The strategic locational importance of Swindon and Wiltshire

Paddy Bradley, Director of Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, underlines the strategic locational importance of Swindon and Wiltshire in the UK

Swindon and Wiltshire have a rich history and heritage, derived from the ingenuity of its inhabitants from the earliest times with the construction of the Stonehenge and Avebury stone circles, through to Salisbury’s medieval cathedral and its many historic towns. During the Industrial Revolution, the area became a central point on water and rail transportation routes, through Kennet and Avon Canal, linking the area with Bristol and Reading and subsequently through the railways with the Great Western Railway supporting the development of our manufacturing and engineering heritage. The strategic locational importance of the area continued into the 1970s, with the opening of the M4 and our connectivity has attracted a range of large investors into the area.

Throughout history, the area has continued to reinvent itself and thrive. In recent years, strong business growth has been driven by several sectors, including professional and financial services, retail, and construction and high-value manufacturing, as well as advanced engineering, remain important components of the local economy.

The Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership is collaborating with the UK Government to develop its Local Industrial Strategy, building on the unique features of the area to support the inclusive development of the economy and boost productivity over the next ten to fifteen years. This also means supporting innovative ideas that bring new thinking and expertise to the area. Two such examples are set out below.

Business-led Cyber Hub, part of UK Cyber Valley

We are working with GFirst, Worcester and The Marches LEPs to develop the concept of a Cyber Valley, to co-ordinate support for the cyber sector growing rapidly in our part of the country. The four LEPs are collaborating to ensure each of our developments complements the overall range of assets in the burgeoning Cyber Valley. While our neighbour LEPs will focus on a range of opportunities including national security and growing the cyber sector in their areas, building on our strengths, we will focus on developing cyber resilience solutions specifically for SMEs, to meet the growing UK and global demand.

We are well placed to develop a successful Cyber Hub. We are home to a high concentration of people and companies with the right skillset. These include strong cyber military presence at Corsham, where Global Secure Operations Centre (GSOC) is based, Colerne and Abbeywood, with an additional presence at Porton Down. Aside from the MOD, several large businesses are driving both the demand and advancements in the subject area, including Nationwide in Swindon and Dyson in Malmesbury. The Cyber Hub will offer a platform from which to build on this knowledge and expertise to grow.

Our digital infrastructure is good and improving and our road and rail networks offer easy access to other digital markets and labour supply, including those in Bristol, Bath, London, Reading, Gloucestershire and South Wales. Putting it ahead of its neighbours, Swindon and Wiltshire boast many value-for-money and quality-of-life advantages, which combined with its excellent connectivity make it more cost-effective to recruit and build a business here.

We will work with the relevant government departments to encourage more women to enter the cyber resilience field and increase gender diversity. To ensure that ideas are shared and innovation embedded, we will develop relationships with the nine cyber-crime centres across the UK, which operate independently.

Whilst most of the building blocks are already in place, as part of our Local Industrial Strategy, we will deliver three key components:

  • Develop a local Cyber Emergency Response Team, with the support of the UK Government and the private sector that focusses on businesses.
  • Build an incubation space to provide an environment for innovation, using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and data science in order to allow greater, more effective cyber defence and provide exciting employment opportunities.
  • Ensure that our education and training system is developing the right skills to provide a pipeline of suitably qualified future employees and entrepreneurs. With our further education (FE) colleges, the Institute of Technology and neighbouring universities, the Cyber Hub will provide a focal point for academic institutions to design, develop and deliver the complete spectrum of cyber courses that meet the needs of industry and society.

Multidisciplinary Research Centre to deliver sustainable technologies for a circular economy

The need for new circular economic models, as drivers of clean growth, is growing in importance. To develop these models and address market failure, we need to be able to translate fundamental research in sustainable technologies into commercial reality.

Swindon is well suited to play an important part in this, given its assets, geographical location and development potential. The strength of the current assets is demonstrated in the Innovate UK data, which shows grants of more than three times the national average awarded to for sustainability initiatives, making it Swindon and Wiltshire’s most prominent sector.

The importance of its geographical locations stems from the fact that the universities of Bath, Southampton and Oxford, all of which have world-class knowledge in sustainable technologies, have joined forces and Swindon is a convenient location for all three.

Working with SWLEP, SETsquared and other partners, the next step is to develop a Multidisciplinary Research Centre to Deliver Sustainable Technologies for a Circular Economy in Swindon. The project will be in two phases and require a multi-million-pound investment, with phase 1 developing a 500-800 m2 facility, which would house 10 core staff and 20-30 PhD and postdoctoral researchers over three years. Phase 2 would look at rapid expansion and would focus on applied research, innovation and an incubation facility.

The Centre will focus on excellent research, translated into impact-generating knowledge exchange. The facility would give local businesses access to leading-edge equipment and technologies in fields such as advanced materials and energy and waste. This open access to state-of-art equipment and expertise would make this facility the first of its kind in the UK and it would provide a core around which future investment opportunities can coalesce.

 

Please note: This is a commercial profile

Contributor Profile

Director
Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership
Email: paddy.bradley@swlep.co.uk 
Website: Visit Website

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