Technology Driving the Economy

Mike Hedges AM

Mike Hedges MS

Whilst the following parts of England have chosen technology as the engine to drive their
economy, many in Wales see economic success coming from the support economy, tourism,
and agriculture.

Looking at successful areas in England:

The Oxford Science Park is a science and technology park located on the southern edge of the city of Oxford and is owned by Magdalen College, Oxford. The park maintains strong links with the University of Oxford and currently contains over 60 companies including Sharp Laboratories of Europe and trip advisor. From start-ups to multinationals, from drugs for cancer to devices for kidney disease and artificial intelligence for drug discovery, there is a vibrant R&D and commercial ecosystem at The Oxford Science Park.

The eastern end of the M4 corridor is home to a large number of technology companies, particularly in Berkshire, Swindon and the Thames Valley. Reading is home to many information technology and financial services businesses, including Cisco, Microsoft, ING Direct, Oracle, Prudential, Yell Group and Ericsson. Vodafone has a major corporate campus in Newbury, Maidenhead is the home of Hutchison 3G UK’s headquarters and Tesla
Motors’ UK head office.

Silicon Fen, also called the Cambridge cluster, is the area around Cambridge focussing on software, electronics, and biotechnology. More than 1000 high-technology companies established offices in the area during the five years preceding 1998. Successful businesses include Advanced RISC Machines and Cambridge Display Technology. In 2004, 24% of all UK venture capital was received by Silicon Fen companies.

This has given rise to start-up companies in a town previously only having a little light industry in the electrical sector and is usually dated to the founding of the Cambridge Science Park, an initiative of Trinity College, Cambridge University and moved away from a traditional low-development policy for Cambridge.

Silicon Gorge is a region in South West England in which several high-tech and research companies are based, specifically in the triangle of Bristol, Swindon and Gloucester. The Bristol and Bath region is acclaimed as one of the liveliest technology hubs in the UK. The area with a strong tradition in aerospace and the creative industries, is now known as a hotbed of digital talent. They have four universities that churn out a continuous stream of
graduates. Major technological companies including KETS quantum security, Trackener, open bionics and brightpearl are based here.

East London Tech City is the term used for a technology cluster of high-tech companies located in East London. Its main area lies broadly between St Luke’s and Hackney Road, with an accelerator space for spinout companies at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. A cluster of web businesses initially developed around the Old Street Roundabout in 2008. From 2010, as the cluster developed, both local and national government supported its growth, Cisco, Facebook, Google, Intel, McKinsey & Company and Microsoft are among the companies that have invested in the area.

Leamington Spa and the surrounding area, known as Silicon Spa, is a significant global centre for the video game industry, with a higher than average proportion of digital media companies involved in games development, digital design and publishing, and over a thousand employed directly in game development. Companies based in or around the town
include Third Kind Games, Super Spline Studios, Lab42, DNA Interactive, Fish in a Bottle, Ubisoft Leamington, Pixel Toys, Supersonic Software and Midoki. Codemasters are based in the countryside outside Leamington and were the initial impetus behind the cluster, providing many of the staff for the companies that have developed. In 2013, Sega’s mobile platform studio Hardlight Studio set up in Leamington, and Exient opened a satellite
studio.

Each of these areas are different but they all have the following characteristics which lead to their success:
 High quality universities
 A ready supply of new graduates
 A critical mass of technology companies
 R+D taking place.
 Large number of start-up companies

We know that high technology including bio sciences and ICT pay well above median salaries for the UK. We know that Wales has high quality universities and a ready supply of new graduates. If Bristol, Reading and Leamington Spa can be successful in creating the environment for technology companies including many start-up companies there is no reason why this cannot be replicated in parts of Wales.

The Fabian Society in Wales