All eyes are on Cornwall as it prepares to welcome the world’s leaders for June’s G7 summit. An opportunity to showcase this unique part of the UK, our Head of Launchpad, James Murray, discusses how Cornwall provides the perfect ecosystem for innovation and why you should care…
Cornwall is easily dismissed as a place where you come for a beach, pasty, and a jam-first cream tea. Maybe that nice hike. Perhaps some water sports too.
Although they are some highlights there’s much more to the place than meets the eye. Yes, there’s the Eden Project, spectacular sights of derelict mines and miles of sandy beaches. These are quaint and beautiful traits of Cornwall, but for some time we’ve been witnessing a gradual transformation of the region that’s been accelerated by the global pandemic.
It is well documented that professionals are leaving London – other expensive and overpopulated urban conurbations are also available – and are seeking to break away from the rat race of packed and delayed train commutes or hours on a motorway commuting each week to a soulless grey concrete and glass building. In an area with inconvenient parking and greenery in short supply. Don’t forget your facsimile Starbucks on every other corner too, to fuel the caffeine habit needed to keep up with the work, people, and the other pressures of the everyday.
COVID-19 has taught the world that where, and what, you do is not necessarily a set of spliced components. Yes, you could work remotely, but also, it’s important to acknowledge that Zoom will never replace the serendipity of a chance meeting. And as social animals the comradery inspired by a hallowed place of communion at the alter of productivity is something that will always be something of a necessity. Just perhaps not nine to five, Monday to Friday.
Cue the typical pitch that Cornwall is a place to escape, with the perfect work-life balance. Surf and work. Life in Cornwall truly can be idyllic, but let’s forget the stereotypical imagery for a moment – although of course it’s important to remember it’s bloody beautiful here.
Cornwall is the least economically developed region in the UK (read: fewest large employers), but with the highest per-capital number of high-net-worth individuals (read: angel investors). To many an entrepreneur, this represents a massive opportunity, and indeed the area holds some of Britain’s best kept start-up secrets. Perhaps until recently.
Because of decades of infrastructure investment into Cornwall, it’s one of the best internet connected regions in the UK. Those ‘in the know’ understand that clustering is an important part of the innovation ecosystem. Cornwall is home to Innovate UK Satellite Applications and Offshore Energy Catapults. A joint university campus in Penryn of Falmouth and Exeter. And it even has its own Spaceport in Newquay!
Beyond that there are dozens of technical and entrepreneurial networks and events that are based in Cornwall. One favourite is Agile on the Beach – a sort of Silicon Valley comes to Cornwall type affair – with great guest speakers and where serious fun can be had. Creative UK also has a strong presence with a huge creative community in the region with artists of all skills. There is an Immersive Business project run by Exeter and Falmouth Universities, designed to bring AR and VR to life for real-world use. Software Cornwall – which we’re very pleased to support – is key to helping lubricate and connect the software engineers of the region.
I am personally very lucky to head the only university-embedded venture studio in the world with an accredited UK master’s level programme. I was amazed when I discovered the breadth of the opportunity at hand; a fee-free MSc degree, a tax-free stipend, and incredible support team and a state-of-the-art building on the Penryn Campus.
What makes this programme different to other flagship programmes is that Launchpad partners with incredible businesses like AWS, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, JISC, Twitch, Sony Interactive, HSBC and other venture studios to grapple with market opportunities and have a positive impact at a systems level. Bet you didn’t see that coming from Cornwall.
Launchpad attracts talent from all over the world – this summer we have a set of strong diverse candidates joining us from the USA, India, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Canada, with MBAs and PhDs in tow. We have strategic partners working with us on ventures in ocean aquaculture and food sustainability through alternative proteins. It’s an exciting place to be right now. Launchpad has just been accepted to the Global Accelerator Network and the Global Start-up Network, drawing more visibility to the going’s on in this corner of the world.
I’m sure Boulder, Colorado was the same not so long ago.
With G7 coming to Cornwall, all eyes are on us. Many of my friends have asked me when I started at Falmouth, ‘why Cornwall?’ My question back was ‘why are you not already here?’ I’m glad to see that both my eldest brother and the G7 agree with me – Cornwall is the place to be, and now is the time to come and start something new and exciting: building back better and what a place to start tackling some of the world’s biggest challenges ahead.