The tech industry in Cornwall likes to draw similarities with Silicon Valley in California, where global tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon offer their staff the best facilities in the world to work and play, with the geography of the San Francisco bay and its natural beauty providing a lovely environment to live in, relax and be inspired and creative.
It is the same in Cornwall.
Salaries might not be as high as in London or San Francisco, but Cornwall largely makes up for it with its perfect work-life balance potential.
Cornwall’s natural beauty, superb surf spots and gorgeous beaches are what makes the county so attractive to tech, digital and creative industries (Image: Finisterre)
Kim Conchie, chief executive of Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, believes Cornwall has all its needs to see a “brain gain” of talented entrepreneurs and staff including first and foremost, a pristine environment and rural setting.
He said: “For generations we have suffered from being seen as far away from anywhere but with superfast broadband we’re as – or even better – connected as other parts of the world.
“With the environment and great work-life balance Cornwall offers we have a real edge here.
“Being near a beach doesn’t mean we work any less hard. It just means that when we’ve finished work we can be on our boards, boats or bikes within 15 minutes rather than be stuck in commuter traffic.”
As Headforwards director Toby Parkins explains, if the environment you live in offers the head space you need to think, take heed and enjoy life, you are more likely to be more creative at work and solve problems more efficiently.
He added: “Creating and maintaining a comfortable work-life balance is key to the success of Headforwards.
“Being in a central location in Cornwall has been the major reason for many of our team who have relocated to work with us from afar.
“We are a mere five miles from some of the most idyllic coastlines in the world and have are within walking distance of areas of outstanding natural beauty.
“For many, trading in the daily grind of employment and commuting in the big city for a more relaxed lifestyle and people-focused company culture is a good enough reason to move.”
Surfing, water sports and a pristine environment without too many people around is a huge draw for creative and digital industry workers in some of the 600 tech start-ups in the Duchy. (Image: Tom Baker / Finisterre)
Michael Todd, creative content producer at Engineered Arts, agrees: “Being based in Cornwall is huge for us. Many of our team, literally, go from making the most expressive robots in the world in the day, to surfing in the evening.
“This is not something you can do anywhere else. We are very proud to be supporting the EDGE awards in celebrating the talent in Cornwall’s tech sector.”
Paul Massey, co-founder of Bluefruit software company, added: “We are a creative industry and there is a global shortage of skilled employees. It’s an employees’ market so wages are high but not only that, Cornwall offers a great lifestyle which makes living and working down here attractive.”
Dave Griffiths, from FoAM Kernow – a collective of thinkers, coders, tech designers, artists, environmentalists working together to try to solve some of the problems society faces from urban green spaces to artificial intelligence, the future of social living to teaching coding to children – agrees.
“Cornwall as a location provides a particular kind of clarity or perspective in relation to specific environmental and social challenges that exist in wider society. Cornwall can be a great place for working out how to solve big problems.
“Higher levels of risk taking are possible than urban locations, partly due to lower overheads but also better quality of life results in a better work-life balance.”
Cornwall Live is celebrating Cornwall’s thriving tech industry with the first EDGE Awards in partnership with Cornwall Growth Hub and Skills Hub
The sector agrees that the allure of living in one of the most beautiful, quietest, and crime-free places in the UK, has contributed to the industry’s rapid growth.
Phil Geraghty, managing director of Newquay-based Crowdfunder, the UK’s leading reward-based crowdfunding platform, which is based in a repurposed surf shop overlooking Towan Beach in Newquay, actively encourages its staff to go surfing at lunchtime to clear their heads.
He said: “Cornwall is going through an exciting time, especially within the flourishing tech sector.
“It’s no secret that Cornwall is a great place to live, so the allure of this and the growth of innovative and forward-thinking businesses is proving to be an irresistible combination for world-class professionals and ambitious young talent alike.”
CrowdfunderUK directors outside their Newquay office, Simon Deverell, Creative Director, Dawn Bebe, Communications Director, Phil Geraghty, Managing Director and Rob Love, Chairman and Co-founder. (Image: Emily Whitfield-Wicks)
Talent, a beautiful environment and ideas, have contributed largely to Cornwall’s growing tech success story.
But none of it would have happened had the physical infrastructure, such as the Pool Innovation Centre and superfast broadband, not been in place.
Since 2010, BT, Cornwall Council and the EU have rolled out £132 million worth of fibre broadband as part of the Superfast Cornwall partnership. That’s 75,000miles of optical fibre laid down in Cornwall – which is enough to go round the world three times.
A spokesman for BT said: “Cornwall is recognised as one of Europe’s foremost digital economies in a rural area.”
Independent research has shown that fibre broadband has already created or safeguarded more than 6,500 Cornish jobs and helped the creation of around 3,300 start-up businesses.
Since 2010, BT, Cornwall Council and the EU have rolled out £132 million worth of fibre broadband as part of the Superfast Cornwall partnership. (Image: BT Openreach)
The first rollout phase has included investments of £78.5 million from BT and £53.5 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
The £7.6 million second phase, which began in 2015 and is still underway, included a UK Government investment of £2.96 million, a Cornwall Council investment of nearly £1.9 million and a BT investment of £1.23 million.
The investment has meant that speeds of 24Mbps and above have been made available to 238,000 households and businesses, far outstripping the original aspiration of 205,000. The second phase aims to bring superfast broadband to a further 8,000 premises by the end of 2017.
Thanks to BT’s rollout of superfast broadband almost 95% of the county has access to superfast broadband and bandwidth speed in the Camborne Pool Redruth tech corridor and in Truro is faster than in central London.
Toby Parkins, co-founder of Headforwards, a software outsourcing company based in Pool Innovation Centre. (Image: Sally Adams)
Toby Parkins added: “We find there is a strong passion for the tech sector here, which possibly stems from our engineering heritage. It has evolved and become digital engineering.
“Once upon a time Cornwall was thought of as being somewhere difficult to reach, however this has really changed. Our office is only a 45-minute drive from the nearest airport making us far easier to visit, not just from London, but other cities from around the world.
“We are regularly in touch with developers who are looking to come back to Cornwall and wish to continue working in the tech sector. We also speak to many who are genuinely surprised that we are based away from the big cities and never considered somewhere such as Cornwall as a place to be able to work.”
Caitlin Gould from Bluefruit, which is based in the CPR corridor, said: “We provide developers with an open, friendly and casual place to work, which gives them a lot of lifestyle advantages over other locations.
“As a company we compete with other software companies worldwide, so the fact we are in Cornwall doesn’t hold us back or prevent us from competing with software companies in Cambridge, Bristol, or London.
“Although we might have to jump on a flight or hop on the train a bit more often. We have tried to make sure that everything we do here is the same or better than what developers would find anywhere else, so the choice becomes simply do you want to live in Cornwall, not what would you give up to live in Cornwall.”
As well as linking up companies and education providers, there is also a strong network in place that allows Cornwall’s tech sector to speak with one voice, shout about Cornwall’s uniqueness, encourage the development of bridges between schools, colleges and the industry and seek funding from the UK government and the EU.
Gary Barter, founder of Truro-based AI tech start-up Hertzian (Image: Sally Adams)
Gary Barter, founder of Hertzian, an artificial intelligence start-up based in Truro, which will also expand from seven to 12 staff this year and grow to 25 next year, is the perfect example.
The Falmouth University graduate who came out of the Launchpad programme said Cornwall had a huge pool of untapped talent at its disposal which represents a massive opportunity for further sector growth.
He said: “Five years ago you couldn’t study software writing or coding in Cornwall.
“There was nothing in schools but in some ways we have a blank canvas which we can play to our advantage.”
The EDGE Awards
The first-ever Cornwall Live EDGE Awards – Excellent in Digital, Gadgetry and Entrepreneurialism – launched this week in association with by Cornwall Growth Hub and Skills Hub to celebrate the tech sector in Cornwall.
With the support of some major organisations, like Headforwards, Engineered Arts and Truro and Penwith College, we’re looking for Cornwall’s digital superstars, from the school projects and teachers using software, tech, digital and design to new start-ups, digital entrepreneurs, games designers, software developers, website, app and video producers and digital media gurus.
Cornwall’s tech sector has grown twice as fast as the rest of the country
You can nominate yourself, your business, or someone else that you think deserves recognition. Either nominate through our website www.cornwalllive.com/EDGEawards or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please submit a short one-minute video where possible along with your entry – which can either be a corporate or a simple straight-to-smartphone talking camera piece.
Here are the categories…
Most inspirational IT/ digital/ multimedia teacher
Best school IT/ digital/ multimedia project
Digital rising star
Best video production company
Best games developer
Best community/ social use of digital
Best software developer
Best social media engagement initiative
Best digital media company
Best website or app
Best IoT development
The Edge Award for Excellence
Our EDGE supporters
Source: Cornwall Live