Swindon has all the assets of becoming a tech powerhouse.
Over 9,000 people already work in Swindon’s tech ecosystem and the town is home to global brands such as Intel, Nationwide, Catalent and Innovate UK.
Ian Larrard, Business West’s director for Swindon and Wiltshire told me: “I am sure many people just don’t realise how big and how important the tech community is here in Swindon.
“We are now looking forward to a new Institute of Technology planned to go live from September next year to help the needs of business for their tech provision.”
To coincide with the area’s TechSwindon initiative, I interviewed some of the key people helping to drive the local economy.
Stop apologising for Swindon.
In the week in which the virtual TechSwindon Summit 2020 showcased the scale and diversity of our tech community in Swindon it got me thinking.
The first part is obvious – even before COVID, the term ‘tech’ already seemed so broad and mainstream. However, a few months later as we look to the economy going forward and it is all about ‘tech’. Having spoken to my bank manager this morning – something that is akin to seeing the headmaster! – he told me the tech sector was the only sector which is managing the COVID crisis almost unscathed. We won’t be having ‘tech’ events in a few years because that term will encompass almost everything.
Now onto the second part of the term and my favourite – Swindon. I took over an IT and telco firm (Excalibur) in Swindon 3 years ago when I led an management buy out and have spent the last few years getting to know the area. The first and main thing I noticed was that most of the locals spent their time ‘apologising’ for the town and for no real reason. Thankfully the town’s ambassadors almost seem to be doing the reverse.
As a town it has a lot going for it. A rich history; a varied local economy from small to very large firms; it is an upwardly mobile town with a strong record of inward investment – both public and private and finally incredibly well connected both geographically and technically. Not a bad set of credentials but let me add – it is also cheaper than almost all comparable local areas and wrapped in beautiful countryside on all four sides. Time to get those bags of chips off our shoulders! It is a great place to run a business, full of great people who actually really want Swindon to fulfil its potential.
The recent TechSwindon Summit 2020 has demonstrated a good range of businesses – covering all sectors and from mainstream technology to cutting edge. The town is well set to play its part in the UK economic recovery with strong foundations. I write this article looking onto the Steam railway museum from our new office and wonder what Brunel would have made of it all. His combination of technical genius and a relentless drive and ambition is just what we all need now.
No more apologising please. Time for Swindon to raise its head and become one of many great ‘tech’ places in the UK.