Another milestone in the county’s journey towards becoming the UK’s cyber capital has been reached with the official opening of Gloucestershire College’s £3m Advanced Digital Academy and new Hub8 co-working space.
After years of enthusiastic talk of education, industry, local authorities, exciting tech firms and multi-national giants coming together to create the new hotbed of skills and jobs a change has truly come.
The academy, plus the calibre of those at the launch event and the business names already associated with it, is the most recent tangible proof Gloucestershire is not just talking the cyber talk, it is now walking the walk.
Kristine Scott, partner at Cheltenham law firm HCR, whose three-day cyber conference dovetailed with the launch event, described the new academy (part of the West of England Institute of Technology) and 10,000 square foot digital workspace as a ‘fantastic facility’.
Matthew Burgess, principal and chief executive officer of Gloucestershire College, said it would help train students from GCSE level through to degree level (with its cyber degree apprenticeship recognised by the National Cyber Security Centre).
‘Companies will be able to drive their businesses here in the cyber space, where learning and training is happening already. It is a hub where cyber tech firms can be inspired,’ said Mr Burgess.
‘This is a symbol that the cyber park is coming.
He was referring to the 200-hectare Golden Valley Development – expected to deliver two million square feet of commercial space for digital companies and 3,700 homes and almost 12,000 jobs.
Tim Atkins, Cheltenham Borough Council’s managing director of place and growth, said the roadworks underway on the Golden Valley A40 leading to junction 11 of the M5 were more tangible proof of confidence the transformative project would happen.
Bruce Gregory, of co-working space Hub8 and a driving force behind Cheltenham’s forthcoming Minster Exchange, said: ‘We already have a number of tech giants involved – including AWS, Babcock and exciting businesses like Pentest People and North Green security.
‘All together this means amazing further job opportunities and further growth for the next generation.’
Other major industry names already associated with the county’s cyber community include BAE, IBM, Raytheon and Microsoft, giving further credence to the regional cyber powerhouse vision.
Madeline Howard, chairwoman of influential Cheltenham cyber cluster, CyNam, said: ‘These are all the things when we first formed three years ago we talked about. They were just a dream then – but now they really are happening.’
By Andrew Merrell