Report highlights Lancashire as one of the UK's top emerging technology centres
A new report has highlighted Lancashire’s potential as one of the UK’s technology hubs of the future, thanks to a host of expertise and new infrastructure.
Produced by Lancashire County Council, and supported by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, the 20-page report, entitled Lancashire’s Digital Economy, Lancashire’s major strengths and its significant growth potential within the digital and technology sectors.
The report’s key findings include the overall economic value of county’s digital and technology sector (more than £1bn), the number of digital and technology businesses based in Lancashire (more than 4,000), and the number of digital and technology professionals employed across the sector (30,000 plus).
The research further shows that Lancashire’s technology economy has grown by 28 per cent over the past five years, and that it is expected to grow three times faster than the county’s overall economic growth between now and 2028.
The study also looks at specific sectors such as telecoms and computing (the county’s two largest tech sectors) and reveals that wireless communications has increased by 30 per cent in the last five years while the computing sector grew by 20 per cent.
The new research coincides with a separate survey recently published by the Digital Economy Council and Tech Nation which found that Preston is the fastest growing city in the UK for IT careers.
Other areas covered by the Lancashire’s Digital Economy report include the high-quality digital connectivity which underpins the county’s technology sector. This includes the continuing roll-out of full-fibre broadband and thousands of new gigabit connections being installed.
It further points to the huge opportunities offered by Lancashire’s coastal gateway to the North Atlantic Loop; a high-capacity, ultra-low latency subsea network which connects the county directly to North America and Europe. Having access to this network (which has the capability to carry more than 30 per cent of the world’s internet traffic) could give the region a competitive edge in global, mass data markets such as Esports, social gaming, and large-scale data centres.
The research also found that the county’s four universities produce over 1,000 graduates a year with computing, engineering and technology qualifications. It goes on to say that many of these graduates are ‘industry ready’ and highly employable, having benefitted from access to the county’s numerous university- based R&D hubs where students, academics and local businesses work closely together on real-life industrial projects.
It points to the county as being a centre for cyber security with expertise at Lancaster University and in the county’s defence and nuclear sector.
As more manufacturers adopt new ‘Industry 4.0’ production methods such as robotics, 3D-printing, predictive maintenance and data analytics - and other sectors move towards more cloud-based systems and platforms - the report further reveals there is a rising demand for a new generation of high capacity and highly secure wireless, 5G and private networks.
It further adds that this is where Lancashire’s extensive strengths and expertise within the telecoms industry - and major assets such as the 5G Factory of the Future at the Samlesbury Enterprise Zone – gives the county significant advantages.
According to the report, the changing needs of industrial customers has also accelerated growth within the county’s electech offer. With clusters identified in Morecambe and Lancaster, electech is a specialist industry sub-sector which develops industrial control systems, navigation technologies, battery storage solutions, and other hi-tech electronics, for emerging tech-enabled sectors such as MarineTech, AgriTech, CleanTech and Future Mobility.
Lancashire’s Digital Economy also highlights how Digital Healthcare is a growing sector, and cities several examples of the how the NHS is working with the private sector across the region to develop and deploy a range of MedTech applications.
Lancashire County Council’s Innovation and Digital Lead Maya Ellis, said: “This report demonstrates that in addition to having a significant tech-based economy, the county has all the elements needed to grow as a major centre of world-class digital innovation and commercialisation.
“We have major industrial sectors already based here who need advanced digital services, proprietary applications and robust cyber security to stay competitive, all of which they can access without having to go outside the county. This is complemented by an agile and responsive supply chain supporting dynamic and emerging markets such as 5G, Digital Heath, AgriTech, MarineTech, Future Mobility, Digital Retail and CleanTech.
“In addition, it highlights the rich ecosystem of support available for technology businesses, the many dedicated workspaces we have, and the incredible opportunities offered by our Enterprise Zones and facilities like AMRC North West.
“Such in-demand technology capabilities, combined with our excellent business-led R&D hubs, the collaborative centres of excellence at our universities, our industry-ready pipeline of graduate talent, and our experienced, highly-skilled digital workforce, all adds up to a very compelling offer to any investor, employer or start-up looking to establish a tech-focused business in an unbeatable location.
“The report will also serve as excellent groundwork for the strategy being developed by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership’s Digital Sector Group and the work being undertaken by our universities and private sector partners. It will also support Lancashire County Council’s Innovation and Digital team’s future delivery plans.”
Digital technology companies across Lancashire have said the county is positioned to have a bright future.
Alison Chesworth, head of talent at Preston-based e-commerce platform EKM.com , said: “Every successful technology business needs world-class people, world-class education and world class-facilities, and Lancashire already has all of these in place.
“The region’s economy is supported by a wide range of investment programmes and collaborations between private and public sector partners, and having great universities such as UCLan, Lancaster and Edge Hill on our doorstep makes attracting and retaining talent much easier.
“There are only a few places where you can build a really successful business, and in EKM’s opinion there’s nowhere better than Lancashire.”
Zain Javed, co-founder and chief technology officer, at Lancaster-based cyber security firm Mitigate Cyber, said: “Lancashire offers companies like Mitigate access to world-class cyber security R&D expertise through its universities - and major commercial opportunities through its collab spaces - which significantly strengthens our offer.
“Throughout the county, there is also an extensive network of similarly ambitious businesses, together with highly supportive public sector partners, who are as committed to driving growth through technology-led innovation as we are.”
James Walkerdine, chief operating officer at Lancaster software firm Relative Insight, said: “We continue to benefit from having strong links to Lancaster University and we work closely with its world-class academics and high calibre students.
"The wider county also offers massive opportunities for collaboration and business development across all digital industries, and Lancashire is definitely an exciting place to be right now if you're an ambitious tech company like ourselves."
Rich Grant, Managing Director, Milliamp Technologies Ltd of Lancaster said: "We're seeing many companies based around Morecambe Bay developing and deploying next generation electech technologies which increasingly underpin key growth sectors such as Future Mobility, MarineTech, CleanTech, Aerospace and advanced manufacturing.
"Such leading-edge, proprietary and deep tech solutions are also helping these and other sectors transition to a low-carbon economy, creating jobs and attracting investment along the way, which is bringing benefits to Lancashire's entire tech supply chain."