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Cyber capital of the UK is a title Gloucestershire is determined to lay claim to, but there is more to its winning hand that the trump card that is the pending Golden Valley Development.
The vision goes far beyond the cyber technology park to be built beside GCHQ. The county already has the greatest density of cyber business in the UK outside London, and Cheltenham eleven times the norm.
Gloucestershire also has an increasing number of digitally-focused centres readying themselves to support the businesses and help the county grow and achieve its ambitions.
1. The daddy of all cyber developments – The Golden Valley Development
Marketed initially as a £400 million development, the unveiling of HBD Factory as lead contactor also revealed the first phase of Cheltenham Borough Council’s 45-hectare cyber business park and housing scheme to the west of Cheltenham has been valued at £1 billion alone.
Factory also designed and built the impressive Factory Berlin and Factory Lisbon projects, but the firm’s co-founder, Jeremy Bamberg, said the development of Cyber Central UK beside GCHQ was special.
2. The Forum Digital in Gloucester
At the other end of the Golden Valley 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 of King’s Square and the old bus station, some into office space which is being targeted at digital companies.
With its relatively attractive rents, close connections to the motorway and the aforementioned Golden Valley Development, The Forum Digital is expected to become a significant piece of the county’s cyber jigsaw.
3. Tech in agriculture – Hartpury Agritech Farm and Farm491
The agricultural industry is going through unprecedented change to meet the food demands of a growing global population and Hartpury College and Hartpury University and Farm491 at the Royal Agricultural University have positioned themselves to help lead the way.
Hartpury’s digital farming network is strengthening the connection between innovation and real-world practice, and providing farmers, tech companies and students with a collective voice as well as helping drive forward innovation and technological solutions. Its first Digital Innovation Farm Tech Box Park business incubator unit has just been taken on Novazera.
Farm491 is a leading UK based innovation space focused on the future of farming and food systems. Based at the Royal Agricultural University, Farm491 support entrepreneurs as they advance their business with potential for impact in the agricultural sector.
4. Business and the arts come together at the Minster Exchange
Made possible by GFirst LEP’s winning government cash for Gloucestershire from the Getting Building Fund, the MX is set to take shape rapidly.
Its radical design is an exciting move for a town known architecturally for its regency splendour, but importantly it will be a home for Cheltenham’s Growth Hub business support team and a new headquarters for Cheltenham Festivals – not to mention its close proximity and connections to cyber networking space Hub8.
5. Business, cyber, education and training mix at Gloucestershire College
Gloucestershire College has just officially opened its £3m Advanced Digital Academy and new Hub8 co-working space.
It is more than just a space for training the next generation of talent. Together with the likes of its UWE Level 6 Cyber Security Degree Apprenticeship programme and growing connections to business, as well as its close proximity to GCHQ, it positions the college as a key part of the emerging county and region-wide cyber strategy.
6. If you build it they will come – Hub8
Few seem to have seen the emergence of what is being hailed as the cyber capital of the UK here in Gloucestershire as clearly as Hub8 and its team.
With foresight and no little discretion, bearing in mind how all roads cyber seem to lead back to GCHQ, the Brewery-based workspace and the equally dynamic CyNam collective have been integral to fostering a growing sense of community, can-do culture and confidence that the county is a fledgling digital business powerhouse in the making.
7. A multi-million Digital Skills Centre at Cirencester College
It is difficult to avoid the publicity around Cheltenham and the Golden Valley Development, but significant and exciting developments are afoot in Cirencester too.
The college is nearing completion of its new £4.48 million Digital Skills Centre. Jim Grant, principal at Cirencester College said the project ‘will make a powerful contribution to Gloucestershire’s digital skills needs and provide routes into the exciting new cyber industries’.
Some £4.48 million of grant money won by Gloucestershire’s Local Enterprise Partnership, GFirst LEP, made it all possible.
8. Cyber Security and Digital Innovation Centre – C11
C11 Cyber Security and Innovation Centre on the Gloucestershire Science and Technology Park at Berkeley Green 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. The University is working with local and national partners to develop talent and bring brilliant minds and brilliant businesses together.
For more information, visit reformit.co.uk.
By Andrew Merrell