Worcestershire is becoming a major digital player

05 Jan 2024

Published in: General

These days scenery and space are just as important as pay and perks, and Worcestershire has it all. There are more than 40 high-tech businesses based at Malvern Hills Science Park, which boasts a spectacular backdrop and an attractive, rural location.

These are among hundreds of businesses in Worcestershire looking to attract talented staff, with 10,000 jobs up for grabs in everything from software and advanced manufacturing to leisure and tourism. 

Worcestershire, where the world-famous sauce was born, is home to some of the fastest-growing businesses in the UK, with a growing specialism in 5G technology, thanks to its industry 4.0 test bed, as well as a tech accelerator. 

This ambitious, burgeoning county has attracted hundreds of businesses and thousands of skilled workers from the overcrowded South East in recent years. Around 38,000 jobs were created in the county between 2014 and 2020, and the economy grew by £2bn, compared with a target of 25,000 jobs and expansion of £2.9bn by 2025. 

“You have the best of both worlds in Worcestershire, where you’ve got a hybrid business community, thanks to the county’s attractiveness and good technology infrastructure, but you have a great quality of living,” says Luke Willetts, deputy chief executive of Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). 

Worcestershire is at the heart of UK manufacturing and home to a number of world-class names, such as Worcester Bosch, Yamazaki Mazak, Morgan Motor Company, Vax, Malvern, Panalytical, and QinetiQ. 

It is also a fantastic location to grow a digital business thanks to the BetaDen accelerator, a programme aimed at helping digital businesses to grow, based at Malvern Hills Science Park. 

BetaDen has so far helped more than 50 businesses to expand and attract £507m of private investment. The growth of such businesses will help Worcestershire meet its target of increasing its economic output by £2.9bn, creating 25,000 jobs by 2025. The county’s Plan for Growth also has ambitions to increase output by £4.2bn by 2030 and £5.6bn by 2040 and increase jobs by 36,500 by 2030 and 43,500 by 2040.

One of the businesses to benefit from BetaDen is ChangeMaker 3D, which provides consultancy, design and construction services for low-carbon 3D concrete products. The company, also based in Malvern Hills Science Park, has worked with HS2 and United Utilities among others, and was recently named Best 3D Concrete Printing Company in the UK. Co-founder Natalie Wadley says BetaDen’s support had been invaluable. The company first engaged with the accelerator through an application for Cohort 5.0 and was then successful with a grant application of £10,000. It was then able to access grant support under Worcestershire County Council’s Proof Of Concept (POC) to help develop its novel printing technology. 

“Becoming part of the BetaDen ecosystem made Worcestershire County Council aware of us and meant that it could signpost us efficiently to support programmes within their portfolio,” says Wadley. “We're a small startup with high-growth potential. We have significant opportunities down the line but keeping the company going at this early time is challenging, as it is with all startup SMEs." 

Cyber Valley Worcestershire is at the centre of a regional network widely known as ‘cyber valley’. This is due to its proximity to important cyber security institutions such as defence technology group QinetiQ, GCHQ and the SAS, and to the density and range of cyber security firms clustered in the area. The area is recognised as one of the most important tech clusters in the country. 

The increasing digitalisation of major sectors such as health, construction and professional services is a great opportunity for Worcestershire, says Willetts. “Those sectors are going to change radically,” he adds. “It’s about how they adapt in a digital world or to net zero.” 

BetaDen is on hand to help with that change. The agency was set up in 2018 to plug a gap in business support in the county. The LEP used funding from the government’s Growing Places Fund to create BetaDen, highlighting the prominence of tech and a digital cluster spun out of QinetiQ and the 5G industrial test bed. The nine-month programme includes free accommodation at Malvern Hills Science Park and the option of another six months of free rent after the nine months ends. In all, the package is worth around £45,000. 

Other businesses which have received help from BetaDen include JET Connectivity, which has created the largest, permanently deployable, 5G ocean data platform, designed to provide and retrieve data from an offshore wind farm. 

Another is Plinx, which won a major contract to supply safety technology to HS2 contractor Eiffage Kier Ferrovial BAM. 5G cluster BetaDen is not the only Worcestershire based specialist helping tech business to grow. There is also nexGworx, spun out of the 5G test bed in 2021, which oversaw successful trials of the technology at boiler maker Worcester Bosch, and machine tool manufacturer Yamazaka Mazak. 

“We’re helping to create a cluster of businesses using 5G,” says nexGworx managing director Ste Ashton. “We’re bringing in investment based around cutting-edge technology.” 

Worcestershire has a great opportunity to use its expertise in 5G to grow pioneering tech businesses, says Mark Stansfeld, chairman of West Midlands 5G, the agency overseeing the development of the technology in the region, who also lives in Worcestershire. 

“Worcestershire has a lot of advantages: it’s accessible location, its skilled people and the fact it has been at the forefront of 5G development,” he adds. These attractive features helped to persuade CityFibre to roll-out super-fast internet in Worcester as part of a £21m programme, adds Stansfeld. 

Prizsm Technologies, which offers hyper-secure data storage and communi[1]cations, is among those to have benefited from nexGworx’s services. “The nexGworx 5G team are approachable, knowledgeable, and extremely helpful,” says Adrian Fern, co-founder and chief technology officer. 

Another business which has been helped is smart technology specialist Conigital, with nexGworx enabling it to access supportive supply chain. “Expert knowledge from within BetaDen and nexGworx has helped us greatly in ascending the 5G learning curve,” says chief technology officer Tom Robinson. 

View the full 3-page article in Insider Media here: Sauce Code | Insider Media

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