From biosecurity to silicon design, the South West's range of expertise attracts trade and investment worth billions of pounds
What makes South West England different? What have we got to offer that others can?t? We?d like to focus on a couple of truly world class examples from the South West region to show you why we believe we stand out from the rest.
Bristol provides the right environment for business excellence
One area in which South West England excels is the biomedical sector, and the increased threat of global terrorism and the emergence of new diseases have placed the Health Protection Agency (HPA) at Porton Down at the heart of international emergency response planning.
Since 1951, this site in South West England has been a focal point in the fight against deadly pathogens. Today, the HPA is at the heart of one of the largest concentrations of microbiology and biosecurity expertise available anywhere in the world. A crucial aspect of the Agency?s work is to help governments counter the threats posed by terrorism and disease. It has developed sophisticated scenario planning models that simulate large scale emergencies, such as the outbreak of pandemic flu or terrorist attack.
Recently, the Agency ran exercise Winter Willow, which tested the UK?s readiness for a flu pandemic. Head of Business Development, David Rhodes, explains: ?Our aim in running exercises like this is to encourage the emergency services, government and health authorities to work together to keep the country moving. It is a good way for diverse organisations to learn to cooperate and think on their feet. Both the UK and US governments use this type of scenario planning to test their responses to major incidents and large companies are also starting to wake up to the need for business continuity planning.?
Alongside its emergency preparedness work, the HPA is a world leader in the manufacturing, monitoring and testing of specialised medicines and vaccines. Manufacturing drugs using live organisms is a complex and highly regulated process and the bio-manufacturing techniques used by the HPA are among the most specialised in the world. For the impact of its work to be felt globally, the HPA needs to develop partnerships with industry in order to bring new technologies into the public arena. The revenue generated by these partnerships is ploughed back into research and investment, ensuring it remains at the forefront of the sector.
It is no understatement to say that the eyes of the world are on Porton Down as governments look for answers to the myriad threats to human health in the 21st century. The work that is being done here today will have lasting and far reaching consequences for the health and wellbeing of the global population as the HPA looks for more ways to safeguard people?s lives.
South West England is also home to the UK?s largest concentration of silicon designers, second in the world only to the US. The sector employs approximately 5,000 people. A feature of the cluster is its active start-up culture, with more than £250m raised in venture capital in recent years. In order to encourage this, a sophisticated support structure has evolved, with assistance from the South West Regional Development Agency.
Silicon design companies located in the South West have the dual advantage of a supportive ecosystem and a highly-skilled workforce. The latter is the legacy of Inmos in Bristol and GECPlessey Semiconductor in Swindon. Between them, these two organisations trained a generation of silicon designers and, while the organisations themselves have changed beyond recognition, the designers endure and have gone on to lead the world in areas like RF, video, multicore processor and reconfigurable components.
Central to the growth of the industry are the startup business incubators run by SETsquared, which is a partnership between the universities of Bath, Bristol, Southampton and Surrey. These incubators provide high-growth potential technology startups with serviced office space, business guidance and mentoring as well as access to a high-calibre network of experienced entrepreneurs, potential investors and business professionals. They have a proven track record of helping hi-tech ventures to move from initial ideas to commercial viability.
Silicon South West was founded by Simon Bond (who runs the SETsquared incubators in Bath and Swindon) as a way of reaching out to the entrepreneurial semiconductor sector in the region. ?Entrepreneurs can be anywhere,? Simon says, ?embedded in an organisation or working at their kitchen table. Some of our entrepreneurs are from spin-out companies from the universities, but the majority just happen to live around here. Silicon South West holds regular events that generally attract in excess of 100 delegates and our newsletter includes some of the most highly regarded writers from the electronics sector.
Semiconductor start-ups in the Silicon South West network also enjoy free access to the latest Electronic Design Automation software as a way of helping them to raise investment.? Exciting developments are currently underway that look set to secure the future of the electronics sector in South West England. Silicon South West recently secured UK Trade & Investment funding to run a pilot to fast-track semi-conductor start-ups in the region. And, even more significant for the region, are plans to create the UK?s first Silicon Research and Development Centre at the S-Park Science Park in Bristol.
Simon Bond concludes: ?Almost all high-value industry, including environmental technology and aerospace, depends on silicon design. The South West?s new Silicon Research and Development Centre will allow more semiconductor design companies to enhance their designs at prototype stage and, subsequently, improve the speed to market for their silicon chips. Nothing else like this exists in the UK and it will provide an important competitive advantage for the UK, attracting growing numbers of inward investors.?
For further information about
South West England, contact:
Inward Investment Team
South West Regional Development Agency
Tel: +44 (0)117 933 0200
Added the 16 September 2008 in category Innovation UK Vol4-1