The UK’s thriving digital economy is about much more than Shoreditch, Cambridge and Manchester as like-minded organisations ‘cluster’ together in towns and cities across the country. Every day this week we are training the spotlight on a lesser-known area.
Basingstoke in Hampshire is an emerging cluster, but not one overly reliant on start-ups.
The southern town is home to a number of prominent digital businesses, with the UK headquarters of ST Ericsson, GAME, Motorola, Barracuda Networks and Sony Professional Solutions based there.
It also has a strong background in aerospace and space technologies, telecoms and digital gaming.
Its aim now is to use its existing IT base as a springboard to develop and grow its cluster.
Leading the charge is SETsquared Partnership, an “enterprise collaboration” between the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey.
Adrian Braine, who has the title of entrepreneur in residence at the incubation centre, says: “We’re looking to play to the technological strengths in the region.”
It has had success with cluster creation and is working to turn its new Basing View hub in the town into a vibrant tech community, with a goal of it being home to around 20 companies over the next couple of years.
As well as supporting companies in incubation the project is looking to raise awareness of the business opportunities that exist.
Braine says: “We’ve organised a lot of events looking at technologies and business opportunities including big data and earth observation data.
“We’re trying to build up a technology network and to get some kind of community going where people can exchange ideas and get collaborating.
“Someone will come along to an event or meeting and discover something they didn’t know about and suddenly it’s applicable to what they are doing.
“Collaborations spring out of that. It’s having the forums to allow it to happen.
“Our role is to give the business support to make these things happen. We help them develop and commercialise their idea and we are saying to tech companies in the region ‘help us to set the agenda’.”
Basingstoke, which featured on a Halifax list of the top 50 places to live in 2011, came together after the Second World War as a London overspill borough.
It is clear that the goal now is not to be a desirable commuting town – but the collaboration Braine speaks of is key.
“It’s easy for companies to become blinkered to what is going on around them. They’re so focused on their own business they’re actually missing out on big opportunities,” he says.
“Connectivity is not just about technology, it is about connecting people; the face to face meetings that produce results.”