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Innovate UK

Innovation in South West England – it’s a bit up in the air

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More of a play on words relating to two of our regions great strengths – aerospace and earth observation technologies – rather than any reference to Brexit.

I’m Innovate UK’s Regional Manager for the South West of England, which means that I spend my time working with regional stakeholders (for example, the LEPs), to ensure mutual understanding and alignment between national and regional innovation approaches. I’ve been in post since May 2016, and have learnt many interesting things about the South West in that time.

Along with a fabulous natural environment and great food our region is blessed with a tremendous range of collaborative networks, facilities and activities, which creates an innovation rich environment.

1 in 5 firms in the region are developing innovative products and services with 15% of these actively investing in research and development.

Innovate UK have invested £849 million since 2004

Across the region we, at Innovate UK, have invested £849 million since 2004 and established Catapult Centres to top and tail the region in composites development and satellite applications.

South West’s core innovation strengths

The regions core science and innovation strengths will be the source of much of the regions planned economic growth and lie in the following sectors, which represent the diverse range of industrial and academic capabilities:

  1. Aerospace and Advanced Engineering – the region has 150 years of leading edge developments in aerospace, automotive and marine. 

14 of the 15 largest aviation companies in the World e.g. Airbus, have a sizeable base in the region stretching back to the British Empire and Colonial Aeroplane Company being formed in Bristol in 1910.

In automotive, the region provides components and advanced propulsion systems for everything from the family hatchback e.g. Honda, to a luxury marque sedan [Aston Martin].

In marine, the region is developing everything from unmanned micro submarines [MSubs] through to the next generation Naval Destroyers.

  1. New Energy Systems – with a strong emphasis on low carbon, the region’s specialisms lie in:
  • marine renewables
  • hydrogen fuel cells
  • nuclear

The region boasts the nations Marine Energy Park (2012), a hydrogen hub stretching along the M4 corridor and 3 major nuclear R&D facilities.

This is complemented by emerging clusters in distributed energy and smart grids, including a development in my favourite part of the UK – the Smart Islands project in the Isles of Scilly.

  1. Next generation electronics – the region boasts a long history in this sector along with the neighbouring cluster in South Wales centred on the newly announced Catapult.

Together they form the largest cluster for semiconductors outside of Silicon Valley for these devices, which enable a host of machines and will usher in an era of artificial intelligence (AI) and Industry 4.0.

  1. Digital living – digital technologies will become prevalent in our lives and the region has great potential to develop large-scale demonstrators in areas such as
  • health
  • creativity
  • smart cities
  • infrastructure
  1. Resilience, environment and sustainability – the region boasts a thorough knowledge of climatic and environmental challenges with over a ¼ of the UK’s environment research organisations based in the region including the Met Office and UK Hydrographic Office.

Innovation events in the South West

The first ever Venturefest South West comes to Sandy Park, Exeter on 18th October bringing together hundreds of talented small enterprise innovators and entrepreneurs from across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset along with investors on the lookout for emerging talent.

World-class speakers and the region’s trailblazing technology companies will deliver a mix of talks, workshops and exhibitions and all delegates will make valuable connections and take away insights and advice.

You can register today for Venturefest South West at and take a look at the film to see what is planned.

Organisations to help your business grow in the South West

There are plenty of organisations in the South West to help you grow and develop your business, these include:

And don’t forget you can always get in touch with the Knowledge Transfer Network for sectorial specific links, whether you need support finding partners within or across sectors.

You can follow Innovate UK on:

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