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Report says region ready to go global

A major study by consultants SQW highlights that the Bristol and Bath city region is well positioned to rival the top innovation cities in the UK and across the world.

The report, commissioned by the University of the West of England (UWE), identifies the city region as one of the most exciting innovation clusters in the UK with dynamic, home-grown businesses combined with inward investment in technology and knowledge-based sectors.

“The scale of achievement and the trajectory of development are such that the Bristol-Bath city-region already represents an innovation cluster of potentially global significance and one that could aspire, more ambitiously, to follow in the footsteps of North American power-houses such as Seattle or Boston,” said Sir Michael Lyons, Chairman of SQW Group.

SQW, whose previous work has profiled the Cambridge Phenomenon and Oxfordshire Innovation Engine, concludes that “with its pace of development and the potential going forward, the Bristol and Bath city region is well placed to become a global innovation force in the future”.

The study highlights the culture of collaboration in the region with strong links between specialist sector and local networks which bring together organisations and individuals from the creative, high tech and digital, aerospace and advanced engineering, health and professional and financial services sectors.

The success of these local networks comes from the fact that many are privately funded and self-sufficient with little dependency on public funding. The networks also support a fluid workforce that has moved between the different industries that make up the innovation economy, supporting cross-sector working, technology transfer and collaboration opportunities.

The region has made a name for itself in specialisms including high-value product design, virtual reality, games technology, computer science and engineering, animation, digital design and publishing, TV and film and finance and business technology.

A particular driving force for innovation is one of the highest concentrations of higher education, research and innovation centres in the UK. There is the National Composite Centre set up by the University of Bristol which develops new technologies for the design and rapid manufacture of high-quality composite products; CAMERA at the University of Bath, which explores motion capture and VR in gaming and health applications; Bristol Robotics Lab, a joint venture of the University of the West of England and University of Bristol; and the Centre for Creative Computing at Bath Spa University. New initiatives include Bath University’s Automotive Propulsion Institute, the Bristol VR Lab and UWE Bristol’s Health Technology hub.

“This study shows that we are a great place to innovate and that we’ve got so much to offer innovators in the region and inward investors. It is important that we take on board recommendations of the report in order to build on the reputation we have worked so hard to establish over the years and fulfil our true global potential,” said Tim Bowles, West of England Mayor.

“That means making sure we bring through the next generation of innovation leaders in the region; create the conditions for firms to scale-up from start-ups to beyond medium-sized businesses; further develop the specialist skills-base, as well as talent from all corners of the community, that will be critical to attracting investment by major technology corporates and enable rapid growth by local firms.

“We also need to address infrastructure challenges – affordable housing and employment space, congestion and mobility – to ensure we can accommodate the very best innovators in years to come and earn our right to be seen as a global force in innovation.”

Professor Steve West Chair of the West of England LEP and Vice Chancellor of the University of the West of England said: “This is a landmark study for us in the West of England, a real wake-up call. It is telling us how fantastic we are. But it is also telling us how much more we could achieve if we all work together to realise the potential that is identified here – and that means all of us recognising and getting behind the strengths of our business communities, innovators and entrepreneurs.”