Is this the blueprint for 5,000 jobs to lead the fight on cyber crime?
PUBLISHED: 09:49 01 November 2017 | UPDATED: 09:53 01 November 2017
All eyes are on Gloucestershire as it is on the brink of creating a cutting-edge cyber business park, next to Government Communications Headquarters in Cheltenham, which is attracting interest locally, regionally and internationally
Earlier this year it was announced £22 million had been secured towards the infrastructure needed to support the development of a new Cyber Business Park, proposed for the west of Cheltenham.
Gfirst LEP, Cheltenham Borough Council, Gloucestershire County Council and Cheltenham Development Taskforce worked together on the successful bid which was part of the Growth Deal 3 for Gloucestershire from the Local Enterprise Partnership.
The allocation of funds is a promising endorsement and has spurred on the partnership behind the scheme to create a dedicated Cyber Business Park on 45 hectares of land close to GCHQ, which would act as a magnet for cyber security and high tech supply chain businesses.
A potential anchor for the Park would be the GCHQ-backed cyber innovation centre, one of only two in the country being heavily invested in by the Government, as announced by George Osborne in 2015, with £50 million allocated over five years. The other centre, in London, is expected to open in early 2018.
The new Cyber Business Park in Cheltenham will capitalise on this influx of investment, energy and huge growth in the cyber sector by acting as a hub for start-ups, as well as big businesses and academia.
The Park forms part of an overarching development plan, the Joint Core Strategy for Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury, which has taken eight years to develop and is awaiting an outcome from the planning inspectorate any day.
If positive, then adoption by the three councils will be the next milestone.
The site has been identified as an employment-led mixed use allocation incorporating the new business park as well as housing. It is being promoted by the West Cheltenham consortium which comprises Northern Trust Ltd and Barberry Cheltenham Ltd.
1. New junction off Telstar Way
2. New junction off Old Gloucester Road
3. New link road
4. Potential future highway connection to the south
5. New Local Centre
6. Formal Recreation (Parks, Pitches, Play Areas etc.)
7. Planted landscape buffer
8. Planted residential amenity buffer
9. Wetland Habitat / Parkland
10. Retained /Enhanced tree and hedgerow corridors
11. Hatherley Brook Ecological Corridor
12. Retained PRoW
13. Informal parkland habitat
14. Formal parkland habitat
Jeremy Williamson, Managing Director for Cheltenham Development Taskforce, says: “About two-and-a-half years ago we started having conversations about bringing this site forward for employment land.
“We were looking for land along the M5 corridor, to align with the LEP strategic economic plan, so it had to be west of Cheltenham, and it needed to focus on our strengths in cyber.”
If the JCS is approved, and subsequent planning application, it is hoped work could start on the Cyber Business Park as early as 2019/20.
It could equate to one to two million sq ft of core development, which could create up to 5,000 jobs over time.
“It will be one of the largest employment land releases made around Cheltenham in decades,” Jeremy says.
“We are generating a lot of interest and are looking at various businesses, right from small start-ups through to multi-nationals and high level academia.
“People are very interested in what we are doing and can see the long-term benefit.”
The development forms part of Cheltenham Borough Council’s Place Strategy which envisions what Cheltenham could be like in 15 to 20 years’ time, creating a town where everyone thrives. The key values of the strategy are: pioneering, creativity, connecting and nurturing.
Tim Atkins, Managing Director of Place and Economic Development at the council, said: “The delivery of the Cyber Park will really help create high value jobs, as well as promoting Cheltenham’s strong pioneering and creative spirit.
“It will take a long time to build out the full 45 hectares. However, a lot could happen quickly, and that will be very much focused around GCHQ and the delivery of the national innovation centre which will be the hub and anchor of this new Cyber Business Park.”
The council is working with various Government departments, including the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Department for International Trade (DIT), to bring the Park to fruition.
“We want to develop a space for the next generation of cyber security start-ups, create an incubator space where bright minds can come and be able to test their business idea with support from other tech businesses linked to GCHQ’s innovation centre,” explains Tim.
“It would create a honeypot where these businesses will thrive and support each other. We’re also looking to get larger businesses and academic institutions on board, so there would be a research aspect too.
“There is significant interest from large internationals in the world of digital and cyber who are very interested in what is going on here in Cheltenham.”
The new GCHQ Cyber Accelerator facility, run by Wayra UK, part of Telefónica Open Future, is already up and running with the aim of helping UK start-ups grow and take the lead in producing the next generation of cyber security systems.
Successful applicants and start-ups can gain access to GCHQ’s world-class personnel and technological expertise to allow them to expand capability, improve ideas and devise cutting-edge products to outpace current and emerging threats.
Seven start-ups have so far graduated from the GCHQ Cyber Accelerator and it is on the look-out for more companies which are using novel techniques to solve problems and whose products could be applied in a cyber security context.
There are a large number of cyber and digital businesses in Gloucestershire already and it is hoped the development will draw them together, as well as attracting new ones.
CyNam (Cyber Cheltenham) is a non-profit making organisation which brings together the best technology minds from local SMEs and start-ups, and is working with the council to help move the project forward.
“The positive impact will stretch much further than Cheltenham, benefiting the Severn Vale, Cotswolds and further afield,” says Tim.
“The location is ideal, it has strong links with GCHQ and is adjacent to the M5 and Gloucestershire Airport.
“Nobody has really done this before, in terms of cyber security – bringing the wider industry to a single business park. Every week it is in the news - cyber security is of growing importance to all our lives, that is why Government is pushing hard for this to succeed.
“Cheltenham is fast developing its reputation as a cyber town.”