Science and Innovation Audit confirms UK digital economy is driven by the southern England

A new government sponsored Science and Innovation Audit (SIA) has revealed that the South of England – Innovation South, is the backbone of UK’s digital economy. Stretching from Dorset to Kent and from Berkshire to the Isle of Wight, Innovation South covers eight counties across southern England, with a total economic output of £225.3 billion, accounting for 13.7% of UK’s economic output.

The audit report released by the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), presented evidence to illustrate that the Innovation South area is at the forefront of advances in digital innovations across a wide range of industrial sectors that can transform and improve our daily lives – from augmented reality devices which help train surgeons doing knee replacements to robotic submarines that are helping to combat global warming; from driverless shuttle buses to some of the fastest growing creative digital communities.

Dr Mike Short CBE, Vice President Telefonica, Europe and Chairman of the Innovation South Strategic Steering Group said:

"The Science & Innovation Audits are very important to uncover underlying sector strengths in our huge region, and to identify opportunities for better collaboration and sustainable growth across the UK.

“Now that our Audit is complete, our primary focus is on following up with pragmatic steps to progress our partnership and implement the recommendations of the Audit. We are confident that with the great support we have had from Industry, Universities, and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP), we can build on the Audit to maximise opportunities for our region in the future."

Rob Dunford, Interim Director Dorset LEP, coordinated the evidence for Dorset and was a member of the steering group. He said: “This is great news for both the wider region and for Dorset. It reaffirms our position as being one of the primary areas in the UK for world-leading science and innovation. Dorset has major strengths in the creative and digital, financial services and marine sectors, which are further augmented by two leading universities – Arts University Bournemouth and Bournemouth University. This audit shows that together, our private and public sector organisations are leading the way in driving innovation. This is hugely important to the productivity and economic success of our region.”

SIA demonstrates that Innovation South stands out in the UK for its expertise across a range of digital enabling technologies, including 5G, Cyber security, Big Data, Photonics and Quantum. The region’s strengths in digital enabling technologies, are commercially applied across four sectors, which include Connected Digital, Marine and Maritime, Bioscience and Advanced Engineering. The result is a high growth, high value and a highly successful knowledge-based regional economy, with outstanding potential for further innovation and growth - if all assets are successfully integrated.

Innovation South is a national asset, attracting many global corporations to locate their UK and European headquarters. The economic area has the largest share of foreign direct investment projects in the UK, outside of London, with a robust export performance supported by strong links to London and international markets via Channel Tunnel in Kent, Heathrow, Gatwick and Southampton airports, as well as the Port of Southampton. The audit recommends that sustaining the success of Innovation South, and driving its innovation-led productivity even further, is critical to the success of the UK’s digital economy and the nation’s competiveness in global markets

Business Minister Lord Prior said:

“The Science and Innovation Audits we are publishing today highlight the innovative strengths in regions across the UK and the significant growth and investment opportunities they present.

“Together with our record investment of an additional £4.7 billion for research and development to 2020/21, we are working closely with regional businesses and partners to ensure the ambitions set out in these reports are delivered to maintain our status as a science powerhouse.”

Innovation South is one of eight science and innovation audits across the UK. They have been commissioned by BEIS to help inform government’s investment decisions based on established areas of regional strengths that may stimulate productivity economic growth. The SIA report from Innovation South can be downloaded online here - https://www.enterprisem3.org.uk/innovation-south-sia

Summary SIA reports from Innovation South and other parts of the UK can be accessed here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/science-and-innovation-audits-second-reports-published

About Innovation South Consortium

The Science and Innovation Audit for Innovation South was conducted by an Enterprise M3-led consortium of more than 100 organisations including six Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP), 16 Universities, 17 research institutes, nine local authorities, three inward investment organisations, two local area partnerships and a wide array of businesses located within the region. The audit was carried out over a four month period, under the guidance of a Strategic Steering Group Chaired by Dr Mike Short CBE, Vice President Telefonica, Europe, and Chairman of Enterprise M3 LEP Board.   

Dorset highlights

Digital Enabling Technologies

Digital communications including fifth generation (5G) wireless communications enable a step change in the capacity, speed, stability and potential for innovation of internet systems.

Ordnance Survey, Britain’s mapping agency and digital, has been commissioned by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to develop a 5G network planning and mapping tool together with the Met Office and the 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey. This is being piloted in Bournemouth in preparation for the national rollout of 5G. To make the project a success, Bournemouth Borough Council has forged a close working partnership with Ordnance Survey and Dorset LEP on how local authorities can work together to trial a 5G network.

Connected Digital Sector

The digital economy is a UK success story and the outstanding performance of the Connected Digital sector in Innovation South is essential to that. There are several significant and high profile clusters of digital companies, including areas with a notable concentration of high growth digital firms including Bournemouth and Poole.

Over the last five years, LV=, whose head office is in Bournemouth, has started to transform into a digital organisation. In the last two years alone, the insurer has invested over £80 million in developing new digital propositions and improving core systems which has changed how insurance is marketed and sold; how it is priced and underwritten; and how the Society interacts with its customers and members.

The Orthopaedic Research Institute (ORI) at Bournemouth University (BU) has invested heavily in staff and state of the art equipment and facilities, including a gait lab and a virtual reality surgical training simulator. The ORI unit is working across BU with the National Centre for Computer Animation (NCCA) and the SciTech Games Technology Group to produce training and diagnostic scenario-games in virtual reality.

Co-operation between these two globally-recognised centres enables surgeons to do orthopaedic training and achieve expertise before performing “live” treatments and allows the gait lab to provide walking and running scenarios that assess the root of orthopaedic ailments in patients.

Marine & Maritime Sector

Innovation South is one of the strongest contributors to the UK’s marine and maritime industry, which is estimated to be similar in scale to pharmaceuticals and notably bigger than aerospace. In this sector, digital enabling technologies are critical for future competitiveness, especially, robotics, sensors, big data analytics, smart ship autonomous systems, cyber and electronic warfare, human computer interaction and communication. This means that together with the region’s outstanding industrial and research assets, including BAE Systems and Sunseeker, the substantial growth opportunities in marine and maritime play extremely well to this region’s specialist strengths.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), whose HQ is in Poole, is the charity that saves lives at sea. The RNLI has had an Advanced Technology Partnership with the University of Southampton since 2001, which undertakes interdisciplinary research to develop safe, effective and efficient solutions to design, supply and support the boats and equipment that ultimately save lives at sea.  Over the past six months the RNLI has engaged multiple organisations exploring the future of Search and Rescue (SAR) Communications and Calling for Help and more recently, how the UK may be using Unmanned Aerial Systems and Space assets to enhance SAR operations in the future.

Advanced Engineering Sector

The South specialises in the high-value, innovation-intensive end of engineering, and its advanced engineering capabilities are at the centre of the UK’s defence and aerospace sector, where the UK has a strong comparative advantage. There are world-class and outstanding research strengths.

Innovation South has a concentration of internationally-significant engineering businesses, with a large number of aerospace & defence companies. At Bournemouth Aviation Park, for example, there is a concentration of aerospace and advanced engineering firms, including Cobham, Meggitt and Magellan Aerospace.

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