11 exciting projects that will help make Gloucestershire the UK’s cyber capital

As Gloucestershire lays down statement after statement about its ambitions to become the UK’s capital for cyber business, we highlight some of the projects helping to make that claim so compelling.

By Andrew Merrell  |  Published
An artist's impression of the roofline of the much trumpeted Golden Valley Development to the West of GCHQ - seen as a major catalyst for the county's cyber industry.
An artist's impression of the roofline of the much trumpeted Golden Valley Development to the West of GCHQ - seen as a major catalyst for the county's cyber industry.

More cyber-centric firms are based in Gloucestershire than any other area outside London, and that number and the scale of many of those businesses continues to grow.

Buildings that will become new points of focus continue to be developed, as do other projects to encourage, support and fan the flames of all that is cyber. SoGlos, in partnership with one of those firms, ReformIT, highlights some of the above right here.

It’s official, Gloucestershire is where it is at

Gloucestershire's significance in the UK's cyber economy was officially recognised by government in 2022, leading to the launch of the Gloucestershire Cyber High Potential Opportunity (HPO).

In June this year Gloucestershire was chosen by the Department for International Trade to be showcased as a world-leading cyber cluster through the government's High Potential Opportunities (HPO) programme.

The programme aims to help accelerate the growth of business and industry, boost local job creation and prosperity, and strengthen the UK’s sectorial advantage. It led GFirst LEP and the Department for International Trade (DIT) to launch the Gloucestershire Cyber High Potential Opportunity (HPO), which aims to do all of the above.

That place!

Looking West over GCHQ, the catalyst for so much that is cyber in Gloucestershire, towards where the Golden Valley Development is due to take place.

In a simple sentence on its own website GCHQ succinctly sums up its awesome duty – to be ‘a world-leading intelligence, cyber and security agency with a mission to keep the UK safe’. It is also the catalyst for the county’s burgeoning cyber sector – not least the £1 billion Golden Valley Development (see number 11 below).

Total annual revenue within the UK’s cyber security industry is an estimated £10.1 billion and rising. It supports 52,700 UK staff, more than 1,000 cyber security professionals in Gloucestershire and more than 120 firms involved in cyber related activities. We should also mention GCHQ’s significant public faces – the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

Where cyber people meet

Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, (second from the right), at Hub8 in July 2022 to deliver the Queen's Award for Innovation to rising Gloucestershire cyber firm Synalogik.

In the last year Hub8’s footprint has grown to include a base at the Cheltenham campus of Gloucestershire College, at its £3 million Advanced Digital Academy. It is also a key player in the forthcoming MX centre beside Cheltenham Minster (see below for more information), which will be a new headquarters for Cheltenham Festivals as well as the town’s business supporting Growth Hub.

Gloucestershire has the largest cluster of businesses outside of London and Hub8, together with the help of Cheltenham-based group CyNam, continues to establish itself as a key meeting place and work space for cyber companies. In July this year it hosted the official presentation of one of the last Queen's Awards for Innovation ever, to rising county firm Synalogik.

Gloucestershire College – and county's schools too!

Inside Gloucestershire College's Cheltenham campus's Advanced Digital Academy.

Gloucestershire College has now officially opened its £3 million Advanced Digital Academy and new Hub8 co-working space, further cementing the college's place in the county’s growing cyber sector – and further underling a commitment across the education sector to be part of the story.

The college was already partnered with UWE to deliver a Level 6 Cyber Security Degree Apprenticeship programme. And feeding into the college, Gloucestershire now has 15 of the 49 schools nationwide rubber stamped as ‘Cyber First’; an initiative to facilitate talent into the cyber sector. Cynam, the county’s regional cyber network, is also helping develop that important ecosystem.

Cultivating the potential of agri-tech

Beneficiaries of the expertise and support from Farm491 are scattered far and wide, but all help put the Royal Agricultural University organisation at the heart of developments in agri-tech.

The dual powers of Hartpury College and Hartpury University, plus Farm491 at the Royal Agricultural University, have positioned themselves to help lead change in the agriculture sector. Hartpury’s digital farming network and Digital Innovation Farm Tech Box Park are strengthening the connection between innovation and real-world practice, and bringing farmers, tech companies and students together.

Cirencester Farm491 has established itself as a leading UK based innovation space focused on the future of farming and food systems, supporting entrepreneurs as they advance their businesses.

A multi-million digital skills centre in the Cotswolds

Inside Cirencester College’s Digital Skills Centre, designed by Gloucester architects Roberts Limbrick.

Cirencester College’s £4.48 million Digital Skills Centre, made possible by funding from the county’s local enterprise partnership, GFirst LEP, is now complete and the first students signed up. It shouts loud and clear that ‘cyber’ is not just a byword for Cheltenham. It is a Gloucestershire story.

Jim Grant, principal at Cirencester College said the project, which was designed by Gloucester architects Roberts Limbrick, ‘will make a powerful contribution to Gloucestershire’s digital skills needs and provide routes into the exciting new cyber industries’.

A centre for cyber security and digital innovation

Business and education come together at the University of Gloucestershire's C!! centre at Gloucestershire Science and Technology Park.

Based on the Gloucestershire Science and Technology Park at Berkeley Green, C11 Cyber Security and Innovation Centre describes itself as ‘a secure environment for the cyber community of Gloucestershire to work, innovate, learn and network’.

Set up by the University of Gloucestershire to meet the needs of the Gloucestershire cyber community, C11 sees the university working with local and national partners from the private sector to develop talent and bring ‘brilliant minds and brilliant businesses’ together.

Where digital and creative communities come together

Already taking shape in the centre of Cheltenham – the MX centre.

Made possible by GFirst LEP winning government cash for Gloucestershire from the Getting Building Fund, Cheltenham Borough Council’s MX building is a work in progress and eagerly anticipated.

It is what goes into a building, of course, that creates the excitement and the MX will be a home for Cheltenham’s Growth Hub business support team as well as a new headquarters for Cheltenham Festivals. It is also one of the links joining the Golden Valley Development (see below) with the town cent, along with the Brewery Quarter’s Hub8 cyber workspace. Hub8 describes it as 'an urban regeneration scheme to supercharge the growth of our burgeoning cyber-tech sector and integrate it with our digital and creative communities'.

Showcasing our commercial strengths internationally

A still from the Invest in Gloucestershire video showcasing its mission statement - to attract investment from far and wide into the county, with cyber a key focus.

According to the Invest in Gloucestershire project it has seen ‘increased activity’ and enjoyed ‘an extremely productive year to date’. Its work may be new to you, but that is perhaps because it has been taking place on the ‘international exposition circuit’ where it has been promoting the county to small and medium sized businesses looking to expand their portfolio in the UK.

The project has focused on three of the county’s strongest sectors, cyber, advanced engineering and manufacturing and agri-tech. According to the Invest in Gloucestershire team, it has made ‘considerable inroads’ to attracting foreign investment, supporting major infrastructure projects seeking investment and nurturing key assets in the county to form collaborative partnerships.

Gloucester's digital quarter emerges

Now beginning to take shape to the point artist's impressions like this will soon no longer be needed. A vision of The Forum Digital on completion.

At the other end of the Golden Valley to Cheltenham we have the on-going reinvention of Gloucester, and at the heart of the city the redevelopment of King’s Quarter by Reef Group, on behalf of Gloucester City Council.

The Forum Digital is transforming the area in and around King’s Square into office space targeted at digital companies. With its relatively attractive rents, close motorway connections and the major Golden Valley Development towards Cheltenham pending The Forum Digital is expected to become a significant piece of the county’s cyber jigsaw.

All roads lead us to this development

The Golden Valley Development is considered a once in a lifetime transformational project for Gloucestershire.

Not a spade has gone into the ground yet, but rarely does a week pass without a mention of Cheltenham Borough Council’s ambitious Golden Valley Development. No longer a dream, HBD Factory has been unveiled as lead contractor for the project that will give us the Cyber Central business park to the West of GCHQ.

This is a £1bn project that aims to create the UK’s only cyber-focused campus, including the National Cyber Innovation Centre, with two million square feet (186,000 sq. m) of office space, but 3,700 homes and leisure facilities.

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