Bournemouth: The UK’s fastest growing Digital Technology hub

By Chris Shephard
Head of Economic Development and Sustainability Environment and Regeneration Services for Bournemouth

I’d like you to have a guess at where in the UK will have an average age of 34 for the next 20 years. I bet it’s not where you think. It’s the same place that has the fastest growing digital economy, extremely fast and free public WIFI, and is home to 2015’s Digital Council of the Year. Still haven’t guessed it? If I add in 7 miles of world class beach, an international airport, 2 universities and a football club that has made it to the Premiership for the first time, you’ve probably realised that I’m writing about Bournemouth.

Bournemouth has been my home now for 5 1/2 years and I absolutely love it. As a professional and a family man with two kids under 3, I have been able to buy a family house 10 minutes walk from an amazing sandy beach, 20 minutes drive from the New Forest and a 5 minute walk from a station with trains that will take me to London a few times an hour in under two. My wife walks around the corner to the excellent primary school where she teaches Spanish and I cycle to work along the seafront every day. My name is Chris Shephard and I am head of Economic Development and Sustainability at Bournemouth Council and it’s my job to ensure that Bournemouth’s companies have the right environment and access to the right talent to grow their operations. It is also my job to promote the town to attract new talent and new businesses. Sounds great doesn’t it? It is, and the secret is out.

I’m telling you this because although I am slightly smug, I know how important it is for Bournemouth and places like it, to compete for your attention. Companies in all industries are fighting to attract and retain high quality people, across the globe. As an ex-recruiter I also understand that it’s not always just about the career opportunities. It is also about the life options like what are the schools like, where can my partner work, and what the community is like. I believe Bournemouth needs to make its case and put itself on your radar, something I can give you a taste of through the words and links in the rest of this blog.

So what is on offer from a work perspective? Tech City recently recognised the Bournemouth area is the fast growing digital economy in the UK, with 212% growth between 2010 and 2013. www.techcityuk.com/technation/ There are around 450 organisations working in this sector, with over 7200 employees, specializing in eCommerce, Advertising and Marketing, Games Development and Publishing. These employees are well connected to each other socially and professionally, and drive a strong sense of collaboration and support for each other. The community is also growing. The universities (Bournemouth University www.bournemouth.ac.uk/ and Arts University Bournemouth www.aub.ac.uk) specialise in producing high quality people skilled in these industries and more, some recently achieving Oscars through their visual effects work, and as a result both organisations are very much part of the local scene.

In the recent feature about Bournemouth in The Drum: http://www.thedrum.com/news/2015/09/24/creative-cities-how-bournemouths-booming-creative-industry-washing-out-blue-rinse Jeremy Baldwin, MD of Bright Blue Day writes “While much of the talent in Bournemouth is home-grown, there is a substantial and growing migration from more traditional hubs. And perhaps this is what is surprising, different and interesting about Bournemouth.”

There are also opportunities outside of digital media, especially in larger, more corporate organisations which are also present in the town for example, LV= Vitality Life, Ageas Retail, Arthur J Gallagher, Barclays, Nationwide, Bank of New York Mellon and JP Morgan, all of which are changing their business models as technology reshapes their industry, something we are keen to help with.

People often think of Bournemouth as a summer destination, a festival town with the Wheels Festival, the world famous Air Festival, and numerous concerts and events at the various conference venues around town. But the fun doesn’t stop once the holiday season ends. At the time of writing Bournemouth is hosting a number of major events that put the town on the radar of digital media companies, visual effects companies, film and game makers, and culture hounds. From Silicon Beach http://www.siliconbeach.eu/ and BFX http://www.bfxfestival.com/ (Bournemouth’s visual effects conference in September), to the Arts by the Sea http://artsbournemouth.org.uk/arts-bournemouth/arts-by-the-sea/ and Emerging Arts Fringe http://www.b-e-a-f.co.uk/ festivals in October, the Autumn is when Bournemouth’s creative, digital, arts and culture scene is on show to the world.

The Council is also playing its part and we’re proud to say that we won the prestigious Digital Council of the Year 2015. This was as much for the way we’ve gone about things as it was for what projects have been delivered, in that they have all been in collaboration with the industry. The free public WIFI, the civic hack events, the open data stream and the web resource for the sector Think Create Do, are all examples of the council working with industry to help create what is really needed. And it’s not all been about money; time, effort, space, knowledge, data have all been in the mix, and we intend to build on this for the future.

It’s clear that there is something special going on in Bournemouth. Come and be part of it.

Chris Shephard
Head of Economic Development and Sustainability Environment and Regeneration Services
T: 01202 454643 M: 07990 080163 W: bournemouth.gov.uk

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